Scams in the time of COVID-19: pandemic trends in scams and fraud

Stacey Wood, David Hengerer, Yaniv Hanoch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

In this chapter we examine some of the main approaches used by scammers and the possible consequences. We (the authors) were working on this book volume when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and were witness to the pandemic of scams, cons, and fraud that came along with it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 18,000 coronavirus complaints between January 2020 and April 15, 2020 (Carrns, 2020), and Google reported an unprecedented number of scam emails, having to block over 18 million a day. In the UK, likewise, a wide range of scams have circulated trying to lure individuals via emails, false websites, phone calls, and many other techniques, leading most news outlets to raise alarm and inform the wider public. During periods of social isolation, feelings of loneliness increase and people are turning to social media and online platforms to fulfil their social needs (Le Couteur et al., 2020) as well as perform activities of daily life (e.g., banking, submission of medical forms etc.). These shifting behaviors—from face-to-face to online banking and shopping—, coupled with increased calls for donation and governmental provision of funds and tax rebates, have all created a fertile ground for scammers to take advantage of people and organizations. This was even further exacerbated by the increasing sense of confusion and uncertainty. Understanding how scammers work and lure potential victims is the first step to reducing the rate of scams and fraud under such conditions. The goal of this chapter is to play witness to this phenomenon, discuss tactics, psychological factors, and contextual factors that may be activated during times of extreme uncertainty that benefit scammers, document trends in scams that have been occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also review the rapidly emerging literature produced during this time.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Fresh Look at Fraud
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical and Applied Perspectives
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Chapter3
Pages42-57
Number of pages16
Edition1
ISBN (Electronic)9781003017189
ISBN (Print)9780367861452, 9780367861445
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2022
Externally publishedYes

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