COVID-19 has completely changed how our world operates; fewer people are out and about with the mask and social distancing requirements. While e-commerce had been rising even before COVID-19, it has especially skyrocketed during the pandemic. This rise, however, comes with a high risk of fraud.
According to a Transunion analysis, fraudulent digital transactions increased five percent between the periods of January 1 to March 10 and March 11 to April 18. Surprisingly, millennials have been targeted the most by COVID fraud trends. Melissa Gaddis, Transunion’s senior director of Global Fraud & Identity Solutions, explains that it is usually assumed that scammers target older customers who are not well-versed in technology.
However, she said that “Our data showed the opposite with younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z (those born in or after 1995), being the most targeted. Adding insult to injury, our survey found Millennials are being financially challenged the most during the pandemic.”
There are many types of fraud that have become more prevalent due to COVID-19. Here are some of the most common ways that people can be scammed.
Phishing and Fraudulent Pandemic-Related Websites
Many scammers have unfortunately been leveraging the pandemic to commit fraud. They will typically pose as reputable COVID-related organizations, such as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under this false identity, scammers will use phishing emails to obtain users’ personal/financial information or install malware on the user’s device.
Similarly, they can create fraudulent websites or apps that provide false employment assistance or COVID-19 information, such as spread tracking, that will install malware and steal information. Ultimately, these scams can result in identity theft, fake account creation, and account takeover.
With the high demand for supplies and panic over contracting the virus, scammers can easily manipulate people into falling for their sales scams. They will sell supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer through fake online shops, door-to-door selling, or social media, and then never deliver the items and keep the money. Through various fake platforms, scammers can also steal money or information with purchases of other online products or services, such as grocery or clothing applications.
Healthcare and Treatment/Testing Scams
Similar to product scams, scammers sell phony coronavirus treatments or testing kits to prey on the vulnerable. They also lure people into giving them money by claiming to be a health professional. Furthermore, they can steal victims’ healthcare information by offering free care and testing.
Charity and Investment Scams
Scammers are also taking advantage of people’s kindness and concern during these difficult times. They create fake charities that ask for donations to help those affected by the virus or aid in the development of a vaccine. Alongside charity scams, scammers can lead people to invest in a company by using promotions on various platforms and stating that its products can detect, cure, and prevent the virus.
Even though fraud has increased with the COVID-19 outbreak, that doesn’t mean that everyone will become a victim. By being aware of the types of fraud that occur, you can protect yourself from being scammed.