Online Scams: Case Studies from Australia

Online Scams: Case Studies from Australia

Michelle Berzins (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch049
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The adoption of new technologies presents a risk that inexperienced users may become immersed in a virtual world of cyber-crime featuring fraud, scams, and deceit. In addition to the societal benefits of social interaction technologies (SIT), the adoption of social software tools brings a range of security issues. The chapter highlights the “darker” side of SIT in which online safety and interpersonal trust become tangible commodities and where fraudsters prey on unsuspecting netizens; it demonstrates that an assortment of technological tools and psychological practices may be used to gain the confidence and trust of unsuspecting consumers. The author argues that consumer education can be successfully utilized to enhance the ability of Internet users to detect and avoid fraudulent interactions and safely enjoy the many benefits afforded by the emerging social interaction technologies.
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Scams, confidence tricks, and other types of fraudulent activity have existed for a long time. Some of the earliest scams were advance fee frauds where individuals pretended to sell something that they did not have, while taking money in advance from their victims. While these types of scams were initially transmitted via mail and facsimile, the early 1990s saw their existence proliferate due to the speed and ease with which they could be transmitted via the Internet by individuals around the globe (Holt & Graves, 2007). This proliferation has had two noticeable effects: first, a decline in consumer confidence levels, and second, increased reports of monetary loss as a result of scam activity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer Facilitated Crime: Crimes executed via the Internet or some other technological computing advancement.

Meta-Scams: Scams about scams—such as an e-mail which is received by an individual that contains an offer to compensate him or her for being a past victim of an online scam.

Advanced Fee Fraud: Pretending to sell something you do not have while taking money in advance.

Disaster Fraud: Crimes including instances where victims of natural disasters are targeted and exploited, or where concerned well-wishers who are otherwise unaffected by the disaster are targeted and exploited.

Online Scams: Fraudulent activity (involving but not limited to scams and identity theft) that occurs on or is transmitted via the Internet.

Cyber-Crime: Criminal acts that are transformed by networked technologies.

Unconscious Manipulation: Occurs when a consumer perceives an illegitimate offer or situation to be legitimate as a result of the specific information and creative reality produced by a scammer.

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