Belfast Telegraph

Pandemic – There’s Also a Scam-demic!

Sinead O'Neill
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It would be somewhat optimistic to conclude that, given the government restrictions ordering the public to stay at home in 2020 and 2021, that this would have limited a fraudster’s ability to contact and interact with potential victims.

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Unfortunately, this was not the case, as an epidemic of scams has swept the nation over the last few years.

Fraudsters have adapted to take advantage of changes in the e-commerce environment and the lack of face-to-face interaction with trusted advisors. Based on what they learned during the first lockdowns, fraudsters refined their tools and techniques to take advantage during subsequent lockdowns.

One example of this is the ‘fake delivery scams’, which have soared across the UK and Ireland. This scam normally involves a text being sent by the fraudster claiming that a package has not been delivered and requires a fee to be paid. Research from the consider rights group Which? has revealed that more than 60% of UK residents have received at least one such text in the past year, with some ending up being defrauded out of thousands of pounds.

Other examples is the ‘work from home scams’, where fraudsters create a fake job advertisement, promoting seemingly lucrative job offers with the promise of remote working and enhanced benefits in an attempt to steal an individual’s personal information.

Fraudsters traditionally used the ‘dark web’ as a platform to sell the personal and financial information of individuals. ‘Carding fraud’, a term used to describe the trafficking and unauthorized use of credit cards, has been prevalent on the dark web for the last decade. The cost of a single personal record containing an individual’s credit card details, date of birth, address, etc. could be as low as £0.82.

Recently this type of fraud has entered the mainstream World Wide Web, with tutorials dedicated to teaching viewers how to commit carding fraud as a legitimate way to earn additional income appearing on Twitter feeds and Reddit forums.

Likewise ‘friendly fraud’, sometimes referred to as ‘chargeback fraud’, has become more widespread. According to the 2022 Chargeback Field Report, this fraud has increased by 28% over the last three years. This fraud occurs when a cardholder identifies a purchase on their transaction statement as fraudulent and disputes it, claiming they did not initiate the purchase or they do not recognise it (even though they did carry out the transaction), thereby sparking the chargeback process. The individual then keeps the goods or benefits from services without paying for them. Given the current economic uncertainty and rising inflation, some individuals may attempt to justify and rationalise as a ‘victimless crime’, however such behaviour is still in fact theft, and therefore, a crime of which we are all victims.

An increasing number of fraudsters are committing fraud. Given the current economic uncertainty, these individuals will find it easier to rationalise committing such crimes. One of the key lessons is to be careful about what personal or financial information you release into the public domain.