Fraud has been identified as the most expensive crime category in Australia with fraud and deception-related offences believed to be the largest category of all federal offences from all levels of Australian courts. Estimates indicated that approximately 25 percent of all the fraud cases are actually reported.
This estimate can be attributed to some people believing that fraud is a victimless crime, or that it's not as serious as other crimes. This is not true. Fraudsters are often part of serious organised criminal gangs, who use the money to fund other crimes such as human trafficking, illegal firearms trade or terrorism.
Unfortunately, many frauds go unreported by victims because of personal embarrassment. It is likely that if a fraud has been committed against you, someone else may have suffered a similar crime. The more individuals who report fraud offences, the more likely it is that fraudsters will be arrested, charged and convicted.
Remember that fraud is a crime and that fraudsters will constantly reinvent themselves to find new ways of tricking people. Anyone could be a victim.
How to report fraud
Not all types of fraud fall under state and federal jurisdiction and therefore, may be dealt with by other government agencies.
Financial Crimes Squad
The Financial Crimes Squad leads and directs the Western Australia Police Force response to complex and significant financial crimes, which include:
- Aggravated stealing offences such as stealing by directors, servants (employees) and, agents as well as other serious offences analogous to stealing
- Commercial, investment and superannuation fraud
- Product contamination where there is a demand for ransom or where intentional contamination provides a serious health risk to the community
- Special commodity investigation concerning fine art, pearls and diamonds
- Public sector corruption (offences committed by Western Australia Public Offices, other than Police Officers)
- Offences against the executive and legislative power (Governor, Executive Council, Parliament)
- Significant electoral offences
- Certain significant offences relating to the administration of justice.
The Financial Crimes Squad is supported by a Crime Identification Team, which amongst other things provides a point of contact for the assessment of complex matters, exploring criminality, investigation opportunities and determining the appropriate area for inquiry. It provides desktop support, resource assistance and investigation co-ordination to regional and metropolitan police units.
What is fraud?
Fraud is broadly defined as any person who, with intent to defraud, by deceit or any fraudulent means so as to gain a benefit directly or for another person, or cause detriment to any person or organisation directly or indirectly.
This may include;
- Obtaining property or persuade any person to deliver property to another.
- Gain a benefit or cause a loss, (financial or otherwise to another person).
- To induce any person to withhold from acting lawfully or undertake any act that the person is lawfully entitled to withhold from doing.
Note: The term person, or any word or expression descriptive of a person includes a public body, company, or association or body of persons, corporate or unincorporated.
Victims of fraud
The victims of fraud can sustain significant financial and psychological harm as a result of being defrauded. This can be devastating for business and individuals therefore, society as a whole suffers greatly. Some victims are often embarrassed and they do not report fraud as they think that police or their friends and family will think less of them.
Effects of fraud
Fraud is a personal violation. Emotional consequences of fraud very much resemble the emotional responses of many victims of violent crimes, though the wounds are not visible. While the effects of the crime can vary per individual, much experience many of the same initial effects. Some of the more common reactions are:
- Self-blame - How could they be deceived so easily?
- Shame or embarrassment - Their family and others will see them as foolish.
- Guilt - They lost the entire family's savings, what will the family do now?
- Isolation - Does not want others to know what they have done. Try to keep it to themselves and handle it on their own.
- Anger - At themselves for causing such harm to their family, for being victimised or taken advantage of.
- Disbelief - Denial that it really occurred, unable to accept that it happened.
- Betrayal - Your trust in one's own judgment, and in others, is often shattered.
Many people are taken in by fraudsters - these criminals are clever and will use every known trick to try and mislead you so you shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed at becoming a victim.
Fraud can cause huge amounts of stress, affect your sleeping and your well-being more generally. In some cases the anxiety it causes can seriously affect people's health.
If you feel that you need assistance please go to ScamNet - Help for Victims which offers counselling and support.
If you need to speak to someone urgently call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Fraud risks and prevention measures
With the rapid advancements in technology, frauds are becoming more sophisticated, widespread and complex. As a result, stamping out fraudulent practices becomes a huge challenge and requires extra vigilance on the part of businesses and individuals.
Informing yourself and asking questions in all business dealings, any investments and everyday financial transactions can be the most powerful tool in battling fraud and making sure you are not a victim. Understanding how important it is to report crime and knowing how you can help to reduce the victimisation of others and one's self is extremely important for combating this problem.