The impacts of online fraud can be as severe as those who experience violent crime. Australia provides victims of crime access to financial support to assist with recovery. However, most victim assistance programs limit eligibility to those who have experienced violent crime, thereby excluding many categories of victims, including those of online fraud.
Victim assistance programs focus their eligibility on types of crime rather than on the severity and extent of harm experienced by an offense. Thus, online fraud victims are currently excluded from accessing financial assistance from these programs. There has been yet no critical reflection on whether the changing nature of fraud and severity of its impact, particularly online, requires victim assistance programs to revise their sole focus on violent crimes.
Through the narratives of 80 victims who lost at least AU$10,000 to online fraud Cassandra Cross from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia showed how current eligibility requirements of victim assistance schemes excluded many victims who could significantly benefit from such schemes to aid their recovery. By using online fraud as a case study and examining its impact on those who have experienced it, the author demonstrated the devastating and ongoing impacts of online fraud.
The results of the research showed the ongoing and devastating effects that online fraud victimization could have on individual victims across various facets of their life such as their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. In some cases, victims expressed suicidal thoughts. Also, there was a strong relational aspect to many instances of online fraud that can expose victims to additional levels of trauma and exacerbate the impacts of any previous victimization. Finally, the dynamics of the victim-offender relationship further highlighted the severe nature of online fraud and provided a strong context for the distress and trauma experienced.
The eligibility for victim assistance programs should not be based solely on the experience of violent crime. It should focus on the severity and type of harm incurred by an offense in the aftermath of victimization. Removing the requirement of experiencing violent crime as a criterion to access financial aid through victim support schemes could assist many individual victims, including those who experience online fraud.
Cite: Cross. C. (2018). (Mis)Understanding the Impact of Online Fraud: Implications for Victim Assistance Schemes. Victims & Offenders, 13(6), 757-776.