Does the harm from cybercrime stop when the crime is reported?

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“Oh we can’t actually do anything about that”: The problematic nature of jurisdiction for online fraud victims

Crime has changed, and law enforcement often lacks the means necessary to adequately investigate and prosecute cybercrime. Moreover, since traditional legal frameworks are based on territoriality and state jurisdiction, a significant portion of online crime, which very often involves more than one country, go unresolved. As a result, victims’ experiences with the police can be frustrating and inconclusive.

Cross investigated the experiences of online fraud victims with the criminal justice system. Interviews aimed to unveil their views on cybercrime jurisdiction. She analysed these interview hoping to discover any misconceptions surrounding the policing of their case, as well as the challenges arising from the international nature of their ordeals.

The study drew from a 2016 study with eighty Australian victims of cyber fraud; victims of crimes ranging from romance fraud to investment fraud. From of this larger study, twenty-six of the participants mentioned the police in their interviews, permitting a greater understanding of their views.

The participants recollections about dealing with jurisdictional issues could be distilled into four major points:

  • Victims were often confused about different agencies’ role and authority. There is a misconception that international crime is reported to the federal police force, whereas individual cases should be reported to local police. Alarmingly, some local police appeared to share this misconception.
  • Barriers imposed by jurisdiction pertained not only to international crime, but also to the national structure of law enforcement, Australia having differing legislatures and justice systems in each state. Victims often faced difficulties in determining which police to report the crime to.
  • Reporting cybercrime involved considerable practical challenges. Procedures for criminal complaints may involve a requirement for reporting the crime in person, which is particularly problematic for international crimes.
  • Complaints were hampered by lacking coordination between law enforcement. Instances where law enforcement overseas were willing to investigate but required local police to coordinate with federal police to open and refer the complaint resulted in frustration due to domestic unresponsiveness.

Dysfunctional approaches to the issue of cross border crimes can exacerbate the harms suffered by the victims of cybercrime. Awareness of how cross jurisdictional crimes are to be reported and subsequently handles would benefit victims of cybercrime. Transparency on the handling of crimes reported to online platforms would also be beneficial. Leaving the jurisdictional mess of cybercrime investigation as ‘complex’ appears to only harm victims and benefit criminals.

The complex jurisdictional issues of cybercrime leave victims frustrated in their attempts to engage with law enforcement. The current state harms victims and aids criminals.