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Recently published – No laughing matter: Blaming the victim of online fraud



By Dr Cassandra Cross

Nearly everyone has received spam emails. The annoying emails that seem completely ridiculous and ask for money or ask for your bank details to an account you have never had. We delete them, we dismiss them and a lot of the time we see them as a nuisance.

Unfortunately not all fraudulent attempts are as obvious as we may think. Offenders are highly skilled and able to socially engineer a person into providing money or personal details in a variety of ways. Through persistence and patience, many offenders are able to groom, manipulate and exploit their unsuspecting victim. For those people, while dealing with the devastation associated with being a fraud victim is hard enough, they also have to endure the ridicule of family and friends around them who blame them for their predicament.

My latest paper examined the role of humour in a group of seniors in Queensland who had received a fraudulent email request. Some had responded, some had not. Some had recognised the illegitimacy of the request, others had not. But regardless, there was a unifying sense of humour that crossed both victims and non-victims alike.

Humour in the context of online fraud, can be seen to operate as a tool to reinforce the perceived trivial nature of online fraud. It works in three ways: first, as a means of distancing seniors from recognising and accepting their own vulnerability to fraud; second, as a way of differentiating themselves from people who are victims (or other victims in the case of those who respond); and third, as a way of collectively reinforcing the negative stereotype of an online fraud victim as greedy, gullible and deserving of their circumstances.

While laughter and jokes may seem harmless, in the context of online fraud it can further isolate and stigmatise victims, who are unlikely to disclose victimisation to those around them. It can exacerbate the impacts of a crime which already has such destructive consequences.

We need to stop trivialising online fraud and recognise it for the crime it is and the impact that it has on individuals. Everyone likes a good laugh and a good joke, but in the case of online fraud, it is just not funny.

Access the full article here.

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