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The problem of “white noise”: examining current prevention approaches to online fraud

Cassandra Cross (School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Michael Kelly (Financial Crimes Unit, Toronto Police Service, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 3 October 2016




The purpose of this paper is to examine the current prevention messages that exist surrounding the prevention of online fraud. In particular, it focuses on the amount and level of detail that is promoted for each type of potential fraudulent approach.


Multiple data sources are used to establish the main premise of this paper. This includes the publication entitled The Little Black Book of Scams, qualitative data from victims who have experienced online fraud, and materials collected through a police investigation into online fraud.


Results of this analysis indicate that current prevention messages are characterised by a large degree of detail about the various ways that (online) fraud can be perpetrated. This is argued to be ineffective, based on the experiences of victims who were unable to apply their previous knowledge about fraud to their experiences. Additionally, the categorisation of fraudulent approaches is highlighted as unimportant to offenders, who are focused on obtaining money by whatever means (or approach) possible.

Practical implications

This paper provides the impetus to evaluate the effectiveness of current prevention messages. It points to a simplification of existing prevention messages to focus more importantly on the transfer of money and the protection of personal information.


This paper argues that current prevention messages are characterised by too much “white noise”, in that they focus on an overwhelming amount of detail. This is argued to obscure what should be a straightforward message which could have a greater impact than current messages.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Queensland Police Service and the Toronto Police Service. However, all views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Queensland Police Service or the Toronto Police Service. All errors and omissions are the responsibility of the authors.


Cross, C. and Kelly, M. (2016), "The problem of “white noise”: examining current prevention approaches to online fraud", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 806-818.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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