Tough times often bring out the best in people, and this was certainly true during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors, nurses, and emergency service personnel went above and beyond to keep us safe and well, while stories of community pantries, mood-lifting public art projects, and sterling work from charitable organisations helped everyone stay positive.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some let their worst side show during COVID-19. Fraudsters, in particular, saw public misery and fear not as national tragedies but instead as opportunities to be exploited.
And exploit they did. Australians – many of whom were already suffering financial hardship due to the pandemic – lost a record $851 million to scammers in 2020. This only includes scams reported to government agencies and the top ten financial institutions; the actual figure is likely to be much higher.
Of this $851 million, $128 million was lost to business email compromise attacks, a form of phishing scam. Just under a quarter of victims (22%) reported that contact was made via email, while 4.5% were contacted through social media. Just under 6.5% reported another form of online contact. While over 65s reported the highest losses, people of all ages found themselves targeted, often losing large amounts of money.
Emerging Scams During the Pandemic
Australians spent more time online during the pandemic, possibly increasing our exposure to fraudsters. However, other, more specific, factors led to these fraud trends – including new techniques and schemes.
Economic Support Payments
Those receiving economic support payments during the pandemic were vulnerable to phishing attacks. These fraudulent emails would either redirect the payment or would access personal account information resulting in a security breach and theft.
Regulation Violation Messages
Scammers like to play on fear and create urgency. By suggesting that the recipient had violated COVID-19 regulations, fraudsters created a situation in which some victims felt they needed to take action to avoid punishment.
Social-distancing and Deliveries
During COVID-19, social distancing made remote grocery deliveries more common. Scammers used this as an opportunity to commit crimes. Fake delivery notifications and information requests tricked many recipients, many of whom may not have used such services before.
COVID-19 brought many of us into contact with technologies we had not used before. Zoom, for example, was already familiar in the business community but experienced a significant uptick in users during COVID-19. Private testing labs also became part of the day-to-day experience for many of us, and scammers could impersonate many of these service and solution providers.
Predictions for Future Fraud Patterns
During COVID-19, fraud went through the roof. As the social impact of the pandemic continues to be felt, we can expect to see a number of different fraud patterns emerging in the future.
While the worst of the pandemic is hopefully behind us, many people still work remotely and use software and applications to complete their daily tasks. This is opening up a new front in the fight against scammers.
An Increasingly Online Population
Time spent online increased during the pandemic and looks likely to remain high. Again, this could mean more opportunities for fraudsters, necessitating more robust protections.
Misinformation and Fraud
Misinformation proved to be a serious problem during the pandemic, as many individuals began to get news and information from social media and other untrustworthy sources. This may become a new way for fraudsters to whip up urgency and fear among vulnerable individuals, stealing significant amounts of money in the process.
Protecting Against Post-COVID-19 Fraud Trends
Since 2003, we have provided a robust defence against phishing and online scams. Working with organisations in the finance, government, healthcare, retail, technology, media, sports and entertainment, transport, and telecommunications fields, we adopt a proactive approach, fighting emerging scams and existing threats. Call our agents at FraudWatch today to find out more.