Time to see scams as life-destroying crimes

QUT Professor Cassandra Cross. | Newsreel
QUT Professor Cassandra Cross wants us to understand the true impact of fraud. | Photo: Supplied by QUT

Fraud needs to be elevated in the Australian conscience to better communicate the devastating impact it has on individuals and the wider community.

QUT Professor Cassandra Cross, an international expert on fraud, financial crime and cybercrime, said victims lose millions of dollars every year with livelihoods lost and lives destroyed.

“If you look at the statistics, pure and simple, it’s such a significant problem. Yet, the amount of time and resources that are invested into it are not commensurate with other things,’’ Professor Cross said.

“The United Kingdom has elevated fraud to the same level of security threat as terrorism. In Australia, the current government has been putting more intention, focus and resources towards the issue, but more needs to be done.’’

Professor Cross, from the QUT School of Justice, said apart from the financial losses, fraud victims often suffered a wide range of life-changing, non-financial effects, including physical and emotional deterioration, depression, relationship breakdown, unemployment, homelessness, even suicide.

“Often, too, there will be a sense of shame and embarrassment, humiliation, degradation, guilt, and, particularly for older victims, fear of being disowned by their families or their mental capacity questioned.”

As well as increased investment to combat fraud, Professor Cross wants to change the language we use, believing terms like ‘scam’ trivialise a serious crime.

“I very much dislike the term scam,’’ she said.

“The term very much trivialises and minimises what is essentially fraud. When you think of a scam, for many people, it’s kind of just this trivial text message, it doesn’t have that much of an impact.

“But at the end of the day, it’s deception, it’s obtaining financial reward by having deceived somebody. We should be calling it out for what it is, and we should be using language that identifies it as such.’’

Read an in-depth profile on Professor Cross and her work in our People section.

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