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Is online fraud just fraud? Examining the efficacy of the digital divide

Cassandra Cross (School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 19 June 2019

Issue publication date: 9 July 2019




Fraud is not a new offence. However, the recent evolution and proliferation of technologies (predominantly the internet) has seen offenders increasingly use virtual environments to target and defraud victims worldwide. Several studies have examined the ways that fraud is perpetrated with a clear demarcation between terrestrial and cyber offences. However, with moves towards the notion of a “digital society” and recognition that technology is increasingly embedded across all aspects of our lives, it is important to consider if there is any advantage in categorising fraud against the type of environment it is perpetrated in. This paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper examines the perceived utility of differentiating online and offline fraud offences. It is based upon the insights of thirty-one professionals who work within the “fraud justice network” across London, UK and Toronto, Canada.


It highlights both the realities faced by professionals in seeking to ether maintain or collapse such a differentiation in their everyday jobs and the potential benefits and challenges that result.

Practical implications

Overall, the paper argues that the majority of professionals did not feel a distinction was necessary and instead felt that an arbitrary divide was instead a hindrance to their activities. However, while not useful on a practical front, there was perceived benefit regarding government, funding and the media. The implications of this moving forward are considered.


This paper provides new insights into how fraud justice network professionals understand the distinction between fraud offences perpetrated across both online and offline environments.



Cross, C. (2019), "Is online fraud just fraud? Examining the efficacy of the digital divide", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 120-131.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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