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A Third of Internet Users Are Actively Targeted by COVID-19 Fraud

Filip TRUȚĂ

July 24, 2020

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A Third of Internet Users Are Actively Targeted by COVID-19 Fraud

32% of consumers say they have been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19, with phishing emerging as the world”s top digital fraud scheme related to the pandemic, according to TransUnion, the US consumer credit reporting agency.

TransUnion aggregates information on over 1 billion individual consumers in more than 30 countries. Its customers include over 65,000 businesses.

New data from the firm”s Consumer Financial Hardship studies reveals phishing as the top digital fraud scheme worldwide related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency surveyed 7,384 adults in Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, South Africa, the UK, and the US between June 30 and July 6, 2020. Globally, 32% of respondents said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19. 27% said they were hit with pandemic-themed phishing scams.

The most common types of COVID-19 fraud faced by Internet users in the areas were:

  • Phishing, 27%
  • Third-party-seller scams on legitimate online retail websites, 21%
  • Charity and fundraising scam, 19%
  • Unemployment scam, 18%
  • Fraudulent COVID-19 vaccines, cures, tests and PPE, 15%
  • Fake insurance, 15%
  • Shipping fraud, 14%
  • Identity theft, 14%
  • Stolen credit card or fraudulent charges, 13%
  • Stimulus check scam, 12%
  • Someone changing personal or account information via a call center, 12%
  • Account taken over, 11%

Schemes vary somewhat by country, as TransUnion reveals in another breakdown. For example, while phishing is most prevalent in Canada, Hong Kong, the UK and the US, unemployment scams are the top threat reported by South African residents. Colombia, for its part, regularly deals with third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites.

“From the impacts of phishing and other well documented COVID-19 scams like unemployment fraud, it”s clear that fraudsters have the data and increasing opportunities to create synthetic identities and utilize stolen identities,” said Shai Cohen, senior vice president of Global Fraud & Identity Solutions at TransUnion. “Identity fraud is a primary way fraudsters leverage stolen consumer data from phishing and other social engineering schemes. It can have long-term impacts for consumers such as the compromise of multiple online accounts and bringing down credit scores, which we anticipate will increase during pandemic reconstruction.”

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