Online fraud against businesses drops, increases against consumers during reopening

Fraudsters are decreasing their schemes against businesses, but increasing COVID-19 focused scams against consumers online, according to TransUnion.

fraudsters businesses

Fraudsters less targeting businesses

The percent of suspected fraudulent digital transactions against businesses worldwide decreased 9% from the beginning of the pandemic (“phase 1,” March 11-May 18) to when businesses began reopening (“phase 2,” May 19-July 25). In contrast, consumers targeted by digital COVID-19 schemes increased 10% from the early days of the pandemic (week of April 13) to more recently (week of July 27).

“With the rush for businesses to go digital as many were forced to go completely online almost overnight, fraudsters tried to take advantage,” said Shai Cohen, senior vice president of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion.

“They were most likely unsuccessful in their attempts and took their scams elsewhere as those businesses ramped up their digital fraud prevention solutions while providing a friction-right consumer experience. Conversely with consumers, fraudsters are increasingly using COVID-19 to prey on those persons who are facing mounting financial pressures.”

In contrast to the recent suspected fraud decrease against businesses, when comparing phase 1 (March 11-May 18) to right before the pandemic (Jan. 1-March 10), there was a 6% rise in suspected digital fraud against businesses.

Fraudsters shifting industries

When comparing digital transactions pre-pandemic to during the pandemic (March 11-July 25), suspected fraud against businesses remained relatively flat, increasing 1%.

“It appears fraudsters assume travel & leisure companies are scrutinizing transactions less in order to capture more revenue as the pandemic continues to severely negatively impact their business,” said Melissa Gaddis, senior director of customer success, Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion.

“Another interesting note is that telecommunications, e-commerce and financial services companies – all industries that have fared relatively well during the pandemic – were targeted with the most digital fraud early in the pandemic but are now among the least targeted. This shows us that fraudsters initially targeted the hottest industries with the most money to be had early in the pandemic in order to hide behind the rush of transactions but have now made an obvious shift.”

Globally across industries, the countries with the highest percentage of suspected fraudulent transactions were: 1) Kazakhstan, 2) Greece and 3) Cyprus. In the U.S. overall, the cities with the highest percent of suspected fraudulent transactions were: 1) Livonia, Mich. 2) Akron, Ohio and 3) Jackson, Miss.

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Consumers targeted by COVID-19 schemes

To better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on consumers, 8,265 adults in Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, South Africa the U.K. and the U.S. were surveyed the week of July 27.

32% of respondents said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19, with Gen Z (age 18-25) being the most targeted at 36%. Among consumers reporting being targeted with digital COVID-19 schemes globally, the top pandemic-themed scam is phishing with 27% saying they were hit with it.

Despite the survey showing Baby Boomers were the generation least targeted with digital COVID-19 scams, among consumers reporting being targeted they were the age group saying they faced the highest percentage of COVID-19 themed phishing scams.

“Phishing shows fraudsters aren’t after a quick hit, but rather looking for the long haul,” said Gaddis. “Once a fraudster steals consumer credentials, the wave of disruption they can cause with a stolen or synthetic identity is endless from compromising multiple online accounts to significantly impacting credit scores.”

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