Greed, altruism drive consumer fraud: O’Connor

New identity threat laws move to statute this week, Gillard Government looks to share fraud information between agencies

Scammers who use the lure of personal gain while helping others has directly led to the rise of Internet fraud according to Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor.

Speaking at an Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce (ACFT) event in Melbourne timed to coincide with National Consumer Fraud week, O’Connor said the lure of email scams such as those originating from Nigeria in Africa where victims were duped into giving out bank account details in exchange for promised millions of dollars were a prime example.

“The lure of the scam was the patent personal gain, or greed and the justification was the social good in helping others," he said. "This combination of avarice and altruism is at the heart of the success of these crimes.”

O'Connor said it was critical for Australian consumers to get ahead of the scammers through public education and government legislation, O’Connor said.

To this effect, the Gillard Government was working with companies and law enforcement agencies to share information on fraud.

O'Connor said an example of this was the collecting and analysing of fraud data across different industries to identify new fraud scams as well as enable businesses to better protect their customers.

As part of the Government's plan, identity theft laws will move into the statute books on Friday, 11 March.

The new identity crime offences provide for tougher jail sentences including up to five years' jail for making, supplying or using identification information with the intention of committing a Commonwealth indictable offence, three years' jail for possessing identification information with the intention of committing identity crime and up to three years' jail for possessing equipment to make identification documentation with the intention of committing identity crime.

The new legislation also aims to help victims to re-establish their identities more easily, by creating a magistrate-issued certificate that states when a person’s identity information has been misused.

“That will be really valuable to victims, who suffer great stress trying to re-establish their identities and credit ratings, sometimes for years after the offence,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor’s comments follow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commisiion's (ACCC)report .

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Tags fraudscamsAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor

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