According to a survey of 2,510 Australians, 10% of Internet users have suffered from some form of online fraud in the last year. But the headline figure being used to announce that result — the claim that $1.3 billion has been lost — isn't exactly accurate.
According to the VeriSign Online Fraud Barometer research, the average loss by Australians taken in by phishing email, fraudulent use of credit cards, Nigerian scams and other online unpleasantness is $1,000. Extrapolating those figures across the roughly 13.7 million Australians using the Internet, that gives a headline figure of $1.3 billion.
However, there's an important detail which that figure ignores: that it many cases the frauds are detected and the money is recovered. The press release announcing the study admits as much, noting that "$200 million is yet to be recovered". Dividing that amount across the Internet-using population gives a somewhat less dramatic $170 dollars or so.
That's not to say that losing even that amount of money should be taken lightly, and the fact that the figure is an average means that some people will have lost tens of thousands of dollars while others will have complained to the survey-takers about a $5 improper charge on their credit card. But as with many fraud figures, it needs careful examination. Online scams are a definite problem, but panicking won't help anyone.