As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts daily life worldwide, consumer patterns are shifting away from in-person transactions toward a more digital experience. Restaurants, retailers and many service providers are facing a new normal, relying completely on an online presence to continue to operate. This rise in e-commerce, along with the simultaneous distribution of federal stimulus checks and the 2020 census, has led to new opportunities for fraudsters.
At IDology, we have witnessed data shifts providing evidence that criminals are indeed capitalizing on these opportunities. One of the most troubling findings is the sharp uptick in fraud committed against senior citizens. IDology has observed a 209% increase in data suggesting that fraudsters are increasingly utilizing senior citizen identities to commit online fraud.
Seniors are already highly susceptible to online fraud, mobile fraud and account takeovers. According to the latest IDology-administered online survey, taken from February through March of this year, 55% of senior citizens do not have or do not know if they have virus protection on their mobile devices. Survey data also found that there is a strong misconception among elderly consumers about the security of their personal information, with 81% of seniors not knowing or believing that their PI (such as Social Security numbers and bank account information) is available for criminals to purchase off the dark web.
Exploitative tactics have gotten creative in capitalizing on the coronavirus pandemic and national events. Fraud strategies that have recently gained popularity include phishing attempts, with fraudsters sending malicious emails disguised as warnings from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Criminals will also target elderly citizens by calling and pretending to be collecting information for the 2020 census or voter registration, or are requesting banking information in order for seniors to receive their stimulus checks.
While the spike in crime against senior citizens is deeply disturbing, there are steps that can be taken to protect one of our most vulnerable populations during this global crisis. Precautions include:
Given that the seniors are among the most vulnerable relative to COVID-19 cases in the U.S., criminals are taking advantage of the heightened fears to target this population with a full arsenal of sophisticated scams incorporating effective social engineering methods. It is vital we fight back on their behalf. Education and awareness are important weapons in the defense of our elderly. To help combat fraud attempts and educate consumers, a collection of free, informative how-to videos has been created by IDology’s Information Security team. For more details on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones who may be more susceptible to fraudulent attacks, you can access our Senior Security Series here.
If you or someone you know encounters a suspected or confirmed fraud scam, visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov to file a report. You can also stay informed on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s coronavirus page atftc.gov/coronavirus.