Global bank account fraud attempts rose beginning in mid-March

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Details about the level of global fraudulent attacks on consumer bank accounts during the coronavirus pandemic are coming into focus with new data from TransUnion.

The percentage of global financial services transactions deemed “risky” rose by 11% from March 10 through the end of May based on data thousands of financial institutions shared with TransUnion, the Chicago-based financial services reporting company said.

The increase applies to financial transactions that were denied or required review, compared with January through March 10, the day TransUnion pegs as the beginning of widespread international government emergency orders going into effect for coronavirus.

Amid the chaos of the pandemic, fraudsters’ attempts to compromise bank accounts occurred within a 250% global surge in digital transactions, as consumers in many countries were diverted from in-person shopping to e-commerce, said Shai Cohen, senior vice president and head of global fraud and identity solutions at TransUnion.

“Buried within the higher number of transactions were a lot more fraud attempts as consumers were victimized by multiple phishing campaigns and scams connected to the pandemic,” Cohen said.

Banks hit by fraud attempts said identity fraud — including synthetic fraud — was the most common type of fraud attempted during the mid-March through May period, accounting for about 25% of fraudulent transaction attempts, he said.

Millennials were hit hardest by fraudsters, according to Cohen. TransUnion data suggests that while 30% of all consumers reported learning of some type of attempted fraud beginning in mid-March, 34% of consumers ages 24 to 40 experienced a brush with fraud during the period.

Technology to identify and block payment fraud continues to improve, including tools to spot suspicious discrepancies in the device, phone number, address or email associated with transactions, but the pandemic set back those efforts.

“We were definitely seeing traction from battling fraud prior to the pandemic, but the volume of transactions and phishing opportunities the virus presented led to increased fraud attempts,” Cohen said.

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