This component seeks to measure the different activities associated with helping victims of identity crime to recover their identity and restore the damage caused to their credit rating and reputation.
4.1 Average time by victims spent in remediation activity (i.e. recovering their identity)
Key findings: The average amount of time victims spend recovering from identity theft ranges from 10 to 18 hours. A small but significant number of victims, around one in 20, spend over 200 hours recovering their identity. These more complex cases can involve identities that are stolen and used to commit other serious criminal offences. The damage caused to the victim’s reputation can often take years to repair. There have been several recent studies that examine the length of time it takes victims to deal with the consequences of identity crime (see Table 5). Respondents to the AIC Survey spent an average of 18 hours dealing with the consequences of identity crime and misuse, including time taken to fix their credit rating and other financial information (Smith & Hutchings 2014). Results from a Canadian survey were in-line with Australian findings, in that victims spent an average of 13 hours in remediation activity. Findings from surveys conducted in the United Kingdom and United States show that victims of identity crime spend slightly longer in remediation activity than Australian victims.
Table 5: Estimates of the time spent by victims remediating the consequences of identity crime
4.2 Number of enquiries to government agencies regarding assistance to recover identity information
Key findings: The proportion of identity crime victims who report their experience to government agencies is relatively small (around 1 in 5). The reasons for this may be that victims are unaware of the reporting processes available to them, or that they do not consider there is value in reporting the crime to these agencies. This indicator tabulates enquiries made to government agencies by individuals seeking assistance to restore compromised identities. While most agencies participating in the pilot were asked to provide information about calls for assistance, only three consumer affairs agencies could provide relevant statistics.
Departments of Consumer Affairs
Figure 29 presents the data provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Western Australian Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Australian Capital Territory Office of Regulatory Services. Also shown is data collected from alleged identity crime victims who contacted the Australian Attorney-General’s Department during 2012 and 2013.
Figure 29: Request for assistance from alleged identity crime victims, by agency and year, 2010–11 to 2012–13
Source: Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV); Western Australian Department of Consumer Affairs (WA-DCA); Australian Capital Territory Office of Regulatory Services (ACT-ORS); Australian Attorney-General’s Department (AGD).
Considering recent survey findings, which indicate that between four and five percent of respondents (an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 Australians aged 15 years and over) are victims of identity crime and suffer financial loss each year, the numbers presented in Figure 29 appear to be exceptionally low. The AIC Survey sought to better understand why victims do not report the incident, and for those who do report it, who they contacted and how satisfied they were with the response. Of the survey respondents who reported being a victim of identity crime or misuse in the previous 12 months, almost one in 10 (8.9%) did not report the incident in any way, while more than half (53.5%) just told a friend or family member (Smith & Hutchings 2014). Of those who did report the matter, only one in 12 (7.8%) reported it to a government agency or private business, most commonly the police or their financial institution (Smith & Hutchings 2014).
For victims who stated why they didn’t report their experience, the common barriers were not believing that the police or other authority could do anything (40%), followed by being too embarrassed (24%) and not knowing how or where to report (23%) (Smith & Hutchings 2014).
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
The OAIC also receives enquiries and complaints each year from members of the public. The OAIC supplied data on the number of enquiries, complaints and own motion investigations undertaken in 2012–13, categorised by whether the matter related to privacy or credit reporting (see Table 6).
Table 6: Number of enquiries, complaints and own motion investigations (OMIs) received by the OAIC in 2012–13
Credit reporting matter
Source: Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Key findings: There is a lack of community awareness of the potential assistance that victims’ certificates can provide to victims of identity crime. Only around one in seven victims were aware of the existence of these certificates and fewer than one in 30 victims actually applied for one, although no Commonwealth certificates have been issued in the last three years.
A victims’ certificate can assist an individual, who has been a victim of identity crime, in dealing with organisations, including financial institutions for the purpose of restoring their credit rating or removing fraudulent transactions.
Under Division 375.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), victims of Commonwealth identity crimes can apply to a state or territory magistrate for a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate. Advice provided by the CDPP indicated that no Commonwealth Victims’ Certificates have been issued in the last three years.
Legislation in Victoria (Part 4a, S89F, Sentencing Act 1991) and Western Australia (Part VI, D3, S494 Criminal Code Act 1913) also allows for certificates to be issued for victims of identity crime in those two jurisdictions. It was not possible to obtain data during the pilot to indicate how many victims’ certificates were issued in these two jurisdictions.
The fact that no Commonwealth victims’ certificates have been issued indicates that many victims may not be aware of the potential assistance they can provide. This is supported by the AIC Survey results which showed that only around one in 10 victims of identity crime knew of the existence of victims’ certificates, with fewer than one in 20 victims actually applying for one (Smith & Hutchings 2014) (see Figure 30).
Figure 30: Respondents’ awareness of victims’ certificates