Cybercrime victims on their own as police fail to follow up cases, helpline head says
27th Feb 2017
If you get scammed online it is likely you will never hear from police, let alone see justice done to the culprits, according to the head of Australia and New Zealand’s cybercrime helpline.
Professor David Lacey is the managing director of IDCARE, which was set up in conjunction with the government and industry to assist the growing number of people targeted by online fraudsters.
Last year IDCARE dealt with 28,000 calls for assistance, and Professor Lacey said he expected that to hit 120,000 annually by 2020.
He said the majority of victims were never contacted by police, despite lodging a report of a crime.
“In our experience few will hear back from law enforcement,” he said.
“Short of engaging IDCARE most Australians will be on their own.”
The ABC spoke to a number of victims of online scams who said despite being advised by police to report their crimes to an online-only reporting service, called the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN), they had not been contacted by police.
Michelle, who wishes to only use her first name, said she and her husband Marc lost about $500,000 in a share trading scam before reporting the allegations to ACORN in January.
“No police [officer] has rung me, no one has come and knocked on my door,” she said.
“There has been absolutely no contact from any authority, whether it’s the Federal Police, the cybersecurity taskforce or whatever.”
Marc said he believed it would have been different if it was another form of offence, such as a break-in.
“It’s disappointing. It’s like ‘oh well, bad luck’, like it’s not really a crime,” he said.
“They need to step up and be a bit more proactive and try and hunt these people down.”
10 months on and still no police help
Paul McDonald is still waiting to hear from police after reporting a scam last year.
Mr McDonald said his email was hacked in early 2016, with scammers using it to order his financial advisers to transfer $28,000 in cash to their account.
He reported it to ACORN and after hearing nothing went to his local police station to see if an investigation would be launched. Almost 10 months later he has not been contacted by any authority.
“I guess it makes me feel as though the system isn’t going to work for anyone who gets caught in an internet scam,” he said.
“They don’t know how to deal with this. It’s very quick moving, it’s global and the jurisdictional system just stops any action that’s going to be timely.”
Police want system improved
ACORN went live in November 2014 to be a one-stop reporting service for cybercrime for all state and territory police forces.
It is run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which said in its latest annual report that there were 41,341 reports to ACORN in 2015/16 with about 76 per cent of them referred on to police.
An ACIC representative declined to be interviewed, but acting CEO Nicole Rose issued a written statement to the ABC promising ACORN would get better.
“Since the inception of ACORN in 2014, police and public users have requested improvements to the tool including improvements to reporting, the underlying business rules for referrals, and management of reports,” Ms Rose said.
Ms Rose also noted police were dealing with a significant increase in the number of investigations into cybercrime offences.
“This increased workload has resource implications for all police agencies in Australia,” Ms Rose said.
The ABC contacted police services in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to find out how many people who reported to ACORN were subsequently contacted by police.
Representatives from all three jurisdictions said those statistics were not readily available.
Watch the report tonight on Lateline at 9:30pm (AEDT) on ABC News 24 or 10:30pm on ABC TV.