Estimating the economic impact of identity crime to Australia 66
Identity crime in depth: a case study 70
Appendix A—Summary of key findings 77
Appendix B—Measurement framework pilot indicators 80
Appendix C—Government agencies involved in pilot 83
Appendix D—Definition of key terms 85
Appendix E—Calculating the direct losses caused by identity crime 87
It is almost ten years since Australian governments recognised that tackling identity crime should be a national priority, with the agreement in 2005 to develop a National Identity Security Strategy. In 2007, this was formalised in an Intergovernmental Agreement to a National Identity Security Strategy, which provides a roadmap for collaboration between the Australian Government and states and territories to strengthen Australia’s ‘identity infrastructure’.
Since that time, Australians have seen more and more of their everyday interactions with government, business and each other move from face-to-face to online channels. Australians have the right to remain anonymous in a wide range of situations. But it is becoming increasingly important that people can have confidence in the identities of the people with whom they are conducting sensitive or high value transactions; and that their own identities can be protected when transacting online. Growth in the Australian digital economy creates real efficiencies for government and businesses and fosters greater opportunities for improving the wellbeing of all Australians. Unfortunately, it also creates new ways for criminals to defraud governments, businesses and individuals, assisted by the criminal misuse of an individual’s identity.
Identity crime is one of the most prevalent criminal activities in Australia, affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians every year. Criminals can generate significant profits by stealing personal identity information, then manufacturing or selling fraudulent identity credentials to defraud businesses, individuals and financial institutions. Criminals also use these illicit identities to access government benefits and services to which they are not entitled. Identity crime also lies at the heart of some of the most heinous criminal activity in facilitating terrorism, human trafficking and many other serious offences, where a criminal needs to disguise their true identity.
Taking all these impacts into account, this report estimates the economic impact of identity crime to Australia is likely to exceed $1.6 billion dollars every year.
The development of new and innovative approaches to identity security should be informed by a comprehensive and reliable evidence base on identity crime. With this in mind, this report represents one of the first attempts by any government worldwide to develop an identity crime measurement framework at the national level.
Efforts to combat identity crime require a reliable evidence base that quantifies the complete nature and extent of the problem. In Australia and also internationally, there are limited sources of comprehensive, reliable data about identity crime and its consequences.
To address this gap in knowledge, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed in 2012 that work should be undertaken to develop a national measurement framework for identity crime to better inform efforts to implement the National Identity Security Strategy (NISS). This report presents the key findings from a pilot data collection exercise that was undertaken as part of the project established to develop this measurement framework.
One of Australia’s most prevalent crimes
Key finding: Each year around 4 to 5% of Australians (around 750,000 to 937,000 people) experience identity crime resulting in a financial loss. However, the true extent of identity crime is likely to be unknown, as a considerable proportion of incidents go unreported.
The Australian Institute of Criminology conducted a 5,000-person online community survey (the AIC Survey) in 2013 as part of this pilot. They found that 9.4 percent of respondents reported having their personal information stolen or misused in the previous 12 months, with five percent reporting that they suffered financial losses as a result (Smith & Hutchings 2014).
Identity crime is likely under-reported by both individual victims and organisations. For example, recent research has shown that only 50 percent of credit card fraud victims and 66 percent of identity theft victims reported the incident to a formal institution, such as law enforcement or a financial institution (ABS 2012).
Key finding: Compared with other personal and theft-related crimes (i.e. assault, robbery,
break-ins and motor vehicle theft), identity crime is one of the most prevalent crime types affecting Australians each year. When compared with the results from similar self-report victimisation surveys on other personal and theft-related crimes, it can be seen that identity crime is one of the most prevalent offence types in Australia (i.e. four percent of the population or around 750,000 people) (ABS 2012). For example, survey data from the ABS show that in 2012–13 an estimated three percent of Australians aged 15 years and over (498,000 people) were victims of assault, 2.7 percent of households (239,700 households) were victims of at least one break-in, 0.4 percent of people (65,700 people) were victims of robbery, and 0.6 percent of households had their motor vehicle stolen (57,200 incidents) (ABS 2014a).