Drop in property crimes linked to benefit fraud
26 February 2013
The recently reported record rises in fraudulent crime for 2011-2012 can be partially linked to falls in other forms of property offending which have been apparent.
The recently reported record rises in fraudulent crime for 2011-2012 can be partially linked to falls in other forms of property offending which have been apparent since the early 1990s, University of Canterbury criminologist Professor Greg Newbold said today.
More sophisticated home and vehicle security systems, combined with increased reliance on credit-based as opposed to cash-based commerce, have seen traditional property crimes like burglary and theft drop dramatically over the past 20 years, Professor Newbold said.
"This drop has been offset, however, by rises in crimes like simple fraud, identity theft and credit card fraud.
"As these crimes have grown in frequency and sophistication, however, so have detection and policing methods improved. After an Auditor-General’s review in 2008, a multi-agency intelligence unit was established, which has seen reported benefit frauds triple since that time.
"Last year, a record $23.4 million in benefit fraud was detected. There has also been a greater reliance on private security organisations and computer technology in the monitoring and detection of fraud.
"So the increases in reported frauds are a consequence of two processes: a real rise in levels of fraud within the community, and better detection methods.’’
Professor Newbold said although reported fraud rose dramatically after 2008 it appeared to have stabilised over the last two years with little further change expected in the next 12 months.
Although detected benefit fraud accounted for $23.4 million in the last year, such sums are trifling compared to the scale of frauds perpetrated by the corporate sector.
"In recent years, corporate crooks have been convicted of crimes involving frauds involving sums as high as $88 million.
"Another huge area of fraud involves the tax system. It is estimated that up to $5 billion of dollars in taxes goes unpaid every year as a result of clever tax avoidance and evasion schemes,’’ Professor Newbold said.
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