BE ON YOUR GUARD: David Lacey, founder of iDcare.
BE ON YOUR GUARD: David Lacey, founder of iDcare. Iain Curry

Fight back against scourge of manipulative fraudsters

THERE is no sugar coating fraud for its victims.

It is one of the fastest growing crimes in Australia and according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, is estimated to cost in excess of $5 billion a year to Australia.

Identity fraud, in particular, where identities are stolen or fictitious identities are created, is becoming an increasing problem for many, which is mainly due to rapidly evolving technologies and the internet.

Not only does identity fraud pose a significant financial cost to the community, with estimates ranging from $2 billion to $3.5 billion a year, but it impacts significantly on victims whose identities have been stolen.

Sunshine Coast-based not-for-profit initiative iDcare is looking to change the lives of victims of fraud across Australia and New Zealand by providing support for individual victims recovering from identity theft.

iDcare founder David Lacey was a former executive director at the Australian Crime Commission, and has more than 10 years experience in leading international task forces on identity crime investigations and working with organisations in developing response measures.

He said iDcare was filling a hole in the emotional recovery of fraud victims.

"We've set up on the Sunshine Coast to provide a public service to the Australian and New Zealand communities to assist people in navigating the complex terrain of organisations they will need to engage when responding to an identity theft," Dr Lacey said.

"iDcare does not charge for its services or collect personal information."

iDcare is calling on victims of fraud to share their stories and contribute to the business model of iDcare.

"We want to speak to actual victims of identity theft and understand how they coped when personal information was compromised," Dr Lacey said.

"We need to know how long it took them to restore their identity, how much it cost, and what, if any, assistance they received.

"We will be looking to engage directly with victims across Australia and New Zealand to help us shape our services to best respond to their needs."

Dr Lacey said fraud not only impacted a person's financial future, but their self-esteem, self-confidence and mental health.

"After almost 10 years leading

national and international task forces responding to organised fraud, we've seen the toll it has taken on victims," he said.

"We know first-hand the catastrophic impact frauds and scams can have on individuals, their families and their friends.

"However, the very response to such events is often confused between regulatory responsibilities and criminal enforcement and for people who are emotionally vulnerable. It's particularly difficult."

In 2012, the Australian Crime Commission published information about one particular fraud syndicate that targeted more than 2600 Australians, resulting in losses in excess of $113 million.

The syndicate targeted people and subjected them to persuasive techniques to identify their financial status and then encourage them to transfer money into sham or worthless investment frauds.

Dr Lacey said there were dangers on the internet that many people, especially the elderly and small business owners, did not understand.

"The internet is playing a large part in the ability for fraudsters to penetrate borders without needing to physically enter the country," he said.

"Businesses operating on a knife edge are always looking to save on costs.

"The opportunities for business to realise savings via online purchasing is a fantastic way to do this, but it does come with its risks.

"Fraudsters know this, and make their 'too good to be true opportunity' look realistic through sophisticated websites and marketing strategies.

"Unfortunately, this is catching hard working business operators out far too often."

Dr Lacey said if it looked too good to be true, it most likely was.

"It's really hard for people who are committing their heart and soul into a business to take a common-sense check on what's on offer," he said.

"We've seen on too many occasions good people make decisions without pausing and considering the legitimacy of what's on offer."

If you have been a victim of identity theft or are interested in shaping iDcare's services through participating in our focus groups, visit http://www.idcare.org.



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