COVID Feature: Who’s A Target?

Russian hacker hacking the server in the dark

As COVID-19 case numbers spike, so does the amount of fraud being committed in the United States. The credit bureau, TransUnion, released their quarterly report examining the most prevalent industries that will be targets of future COVID-19 schemes.

The report disclosed that telecommunications, retail, and financial services remain the most targeted industries. (This was based on the in-depth analysis of billions of online transactions and other fraud indicators for more than 40,000 websites and apps.) The goal of the report was to track the impact of suspected fraudulent transactions following the announcement of the pandemic by the World Health Organization. Data from January 11 to March 10 leading up to the announcement is compared with data after the announcement on March 11. (It’s hardly a surprise that the newfound crisis caused chaos.) 

Surprisingly, the report found the most targeted generation is millennials. The traditional assumption that older generations are perceived to be more vulnerable and targeted more does not apply in this case. (Millennials are just as gullible. Remember, this is the same generation that created the anti-vaccine and flat earth movements.) The most targeted of COVID-19 scams are the generations born in or after 1995, better known as Millennials and Gen Z. (They are also reportedly the ones suffering the most financially from the pandemic.)

A few of the most targeted cities include Springfield, Massachusetts; Akron, Ohio; and, Louisville, Kentucky. It is unclear what makes those cities the most preferable for fraudsters aside from the fact they are outside of established patterns. The countries with the highest percentage of risky transactions were Yemen, Syria and Kazakhstan.

Data suggests that fraudsters during the pandemic have narrowed down a specific set of industries to target. These are industries that are digitally centered and have not been as financially impacted by the pandemic. The goal of the fraudsters is to collect financial information and payments from these sites and use it for their own gain. (Let’s just say that all of the online quarantine shopping probably doesn’t help protect your financial information.)

The pandemic has caused fraudulent digital transactions to rise 5 percent in more than 100 million risky transactions. The telecommunications industry has seen a 76 percent rise in fraud, with the top type being stolen credit card information. E-Commerce and Financial Services have seen an 11 percent and 12 percent increase respectively. E-Commerce’s top fraud increase is related to promotion abuse. Financial Service’s top fraud scheme is identity theft.

TransUnion stressed the importance of websites putting security measures in place so that online users can feel secure and not fear that their data being stolen. (Sounds like a good plan.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “TransUnion Outlines COVID-19 Online Fraud Trends: Millennials, Watch Out,” published by Channel Futures on May 29, 2020.

TransUnion’s quarterly global fraud analysis reveals the most current COVID-19 online fraud trends by industries, schemes and targets. As expected, telecommunications, retail and financial services remain the most targeted industries. More surprisingly, it is millennials – and not boomers – who are most targeted by fraudsters. Another big surprise was the list of cities with the highest percentage of risky transactions: Springfield, Massachusetts; Akron, Ohio; and Louisville, Kentucky.

“To be clear, these are the cities that have the highest percentage of suspected online fraud in the U.S. Without the geographical expertise, it would be irresponsible for me to speculate on what makes these cities so attractive,” said Melissa Gaddis, senior director of customer success, Global Fraud & Identity Solutions at TransUnion.

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Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.