April 26, 2020
In a new survey conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) about the effect COVID-19 has on fraud, 90% of respondents reported that they have seen an increase in scams targeting consumers, with 51% believing the increase has been by a significant amount.
Respondents reported seeing an immediate increase in a number of specific fraud schemes. Of those surveyed, 75% said they already have encountered an increase in phishing through government impersonation, and 71% report seeing an increase in charity fraud. They also have experienced an increase in fraudulent vaccines, cures or tests for the coronavirus (66%); third-party seller and buyer scams on legitimate online retail websites (64%); business email compromise scams (62%); and cyberbreaches (61%).
“Fraudsters tend to prey on people when they’re most vulnerable, and right now many people are desperate for information and tools to help mitigate the virus and its economic effects,” said ACFE President and CEO Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA. “If a person receives an email promising tests and vaccines in their area, or a text soliciting donations to help their neighbors affected by shutdowns, they may be less skeptical than normal and go ahead and click an infected link.”
In addition to the current increase in fraud, survey respondents also expect to see a continued proliferation of different fraud schemes in the coming months and years. 93% of anti-fraud professionals predict that there will be an overall increase of fraud in government stimulus programs over the next 6-12 months, and two-thirds expect overall fraud levels to significantly increase.
They also predicted an increase in cyberbreaches due to employees working from home — 89% said there would be an increase overall, with 62% believing the increase will be significant. Additionally, 91% of respondents said fraudsters impersonating government officials through phishing would increase in the next year, with 71% predicting it would increase by a significant amount.
“This pandemic has created an unprecedented situation for countries, organizations and individuals around the world,” said Dorris. “As anti-fraud professionals, our members have seen fraud spike after natural disasters and in recessions before, but the amount of fraud we can expect to see in the coming months and years as a result of COVID-19 is truly staggering.”
While people may have good intentions, Dorris stresses that right now, more than ever, is a time to keep your guard up. “Try and do your research on anyone, or any group, asking for money or personal information. Also, organizations should underscore the importance of employees working from home using VPN or a secure network system while they work.”