Conversely, consumers targeted by digital COVID-19 fraud increased from early in the pandemic
Chicago, Aug. 25, 2020 – TransUnion’s (NYSE: TRU) latest quarterly analysis of global online fraud trends found that fraudsters are decreasing their schemes against businesses, but increasing COVID-19 focused scams against consumers online.
TransUnion came to its conclusions about fraud against businesses based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps contained in its flagship fraud prevention solution, IDVision® with iovation®. It found 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, TransUnion’s Consumer Financial Hardship surveys found 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. When comparing digital transactions pre-pandemic to during the pandemic (March 11-July 25), suspected fraud against businesses remained relatively flat, increasing 1%.
Examining Fraud Types and Their Impact on Industries
TransUnion analyzed the below industries for a change in the percent of suspected fraud against them, comparing the periods of March 11-May 18 and May 19-July 25.
Suspected Fraud Post-Pandemic Declaration
Suspected fraud change
Top type of fraud
Top country for suspected fraud origination
Travel & Leisure
Communities (online dating, forums, etc.)
“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, TransUnion found the countries with the highest percentage of suspected fraudulent transactions were: 1) Kazakhstan, 2) Greece and 3) Cyprus. In the U.S. overall, TransUnion found the cities with the highest percent of suspected fraudulent transactions were: 1) Livonia, Mich. 2) Akron, Ohio and 3) Jackson, Miss.
Consumers Targeted By COVID-19 Schemes
To better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on consumers, TransUnion surveyed 8,265 adults in Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, South Africa the U.K. and the U.S. the week of July 27. More than three out of 10 respondents (32%) 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.”
Consumers can learn how to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft with the TransUnion Fraud Victim Bill of Rights.
This quarter TransUnion analyzed fraud trends against companies to reflect the reopening of in-person business locations during the COVID-19 pandemic. TransUnion used March 11, 2020 – the date the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic – as a base date for its analysis. It used May 18 and 19 as the mid-point dates during the pandemic in order to compare fraud trends during the first 68 days to the second 68 days of the pandemic. Suspected fraud are transactions that TransUnion’s customers either denied or reviewed due to fraudulent indicators.
For more details about the above findings, view TransUnion’s infographic or visit its COVID-19 resource center. TransUnion will discuss the findings in a Sept. 15 webinar with Aite Group, Fiserv and Ping Identity.
TransUnion Global Fraud & Identity Solutions unite both consumer and device identities to detect threats across markets while ensuring friction-right user experiences. The solutions, all part of the IDVision with iovation suite, fuse traditional data science with machine learning to provide businesses unique insights about consumer transactions, safeguarding tens of millions of transactions each day.