Nearly a Quarter of UK Consumers Targeted by Fraud in Current Pandemic

Josh Gunnell, head of fraud & ID pre-sales at TransUnion in the UK, comments on the latest fraud statistics, and examines TransUnion’s own findings as it tracks the impact of COVID-19 on consumers

“The latest ONS crime figures show the total number of estimated fraud incidents at 3.7 million for 2019; the same as the previous year, based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). However, data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) which utilises reports from organisations including Action Fraud, Cifas and UK Finance, has shown an increase of 14% in the total number of offences for the same period.

“Whilst the nuances of reporting can make it difficult to get a clear picture, given that these statistics pre-date COVID-19, we’re likely to see an increase in overall fraud in future figures, alongside the current pandemic. Our own research* has shown that nearly a quarter (24%) of UK consumers believe they have been targeted in a digital fraud attempt, related to COVID-19, with one in four of those succumbing to the scams.

“The operational challenges created by social distancing have made the task of fighting fraud that much harder for businesses with depleted resources, whilst opportunistic fraudsters have preyed on the generosity, and vulnerability, of those in isolation with a host of targeted scams – ranging from fake COVID-19 cures and medicines to fraudulent loans and insurance.

New ways of working can bring new threats

“Given the unprecedented situation, many organisations were unprepared for the sudden transition to remote working, with millions of employees currently working from home under lockdown measures; a change that can bring with it the risk of susceptibility to fraud and increased cybersecurity incidents. Greater reliance on video conferencing and social media to maintain contact with both colleagues and customers can potentially give hackers an opportunity to exploit the security and privacy of these platforms.

“Businesses need to adapt fast to protect both themselves and their customers. They can do this by raising awareness of what to look out for and empowering customers with educational resources and tools for monitoring their account and credit information for fraudulent activity. Organisations should also be reviewing their monitoring strategies to identify potential threats in light of the change in behaviours and adjust as needed, so that appropriate triggers are in place if suspicious activity occurs. Putting the right tools into practice will help businesses minimise the risks and maintain trust with consumers during this challenging period.”

*TransUnion’s consumer research survey of 1,007 UK adults, conducted on 15 April 2020