Brian Sims

Fraudsters shift focus from financial services to travel and leisure

AS THE prevalence of digital fraud attempts on businesses and consumers continues to rise, TransUnion’s newest quarterly analysis has found that fraudsters are refocusing their efforts from financial services to other industries, with travel and leisure topping the table here in the UK.

Across industries, the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts has risen by 17% globally when comparing Q2 2021 to Q2 2020. Travel and leisure is one of the most impacted industries globally for the suspected digital fraud attempt rate, rising 156% in the last year, and was by far the most impacted industry in the UK. The global increase was most commonly driven by credit card fraud.

TransUnion monitors digital fraud attempts reported by businesses in various industries such as gambling, gaming, financial services, healthcare, insurance, retail and travel and leisure. The conclusions are based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps contained in its TruValidate identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite.

Sarah Golding, director of fraud and ID at TransUnion in the UK, said: “Cyber criminals will periodically shift their focus in line with consumer habits. With many countries, including the UK, beginning to relax COVID-19 restrictions, we saw a surge of transactions being targeted in the travel and leisure industry. With people making up for lost time and booking holidays and days out, businesses need to take all possible measures to ensure consumers can trust that their transaction is safe, while also maintaining a smooth customer experience.”

Online fraud

Global financial services online fraud attempt rates have risen by 149% when comparing the first four months of 2021 and the last four months of 2020. When comparing Q2 2021 and Q2 2020, the rate of suspected online financial services fraud attempts has still risen, but at a much lower percentage (ie 19%) globally, in turn reflecting this sudden shift towards other sectors.

Consumer data from TransUnion reveals that younger people in the UK are likely to be driving this surge in spending across travel, leisure and hospitality as the restrictions lift. Among Generation Z, a third (33%) of those aged between 18 and 24 said that they will spend more in the pub and a similar amount (ie 31%) on eating out. Meanwhile, spending on travel will also rise, with almost four-in-ten of those individuals questioned planning to spend on a ‘staycation’ (37%) and over a fifth on a holiday abroad (22%).

Consumers continue to be targeted by COVID-19 related digital fraud. Fraudsters continued to take advantage of change and uncertainty around the pandemic during the second quarter of 2021. TransUnion’s Consumer Pulse study conducted in June found that more than one-in-three consumers (ie 36%) in the UK had been targeted in a digital fraud attempt related to COVID-19. That figure rose to one-in-two for Generation Z (50%).

Phishing attempts

Phishing is the most common type of COVID-19 related digital fraud in Q2 2021 and was reported by 39% of targeted consumers in the UK, followed by shipping fraud (21%) and third party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites (16%).

Josh Gunnell, head of fraud and ID pre-sales at TransUnion in the UK, commented: “Our latest data aligns with industry statistics which confirm the extent to which fraudsters are taking advantage of the changes in consumer behaviour resulting from the pandemic. Businesses will need to examine their fraud prevention strategies to respond to the increase in online spending and deal with sudden shifts in fraud attempts across different industries in order to maintain consumer trust.”

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