TransUnion: Social Distancing Predicted To Increase Online Fraud As Ecommerce Purchases Rise

A 23% increase in ecommerce transactions in the week after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic — March 11 — compared to the year-ago period shows purchases aggressively moving online. 

The findings from TransUnion’s survey of 1,068 Americans 18 and older also found 22% have been targeted by online fraud related to COVID-19.

The research — Global E-commerce in 2020 — released Tuesday, analyzes the spike in digital commerce since the U.S. began social distancing because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Ecommerce retailers are increasing spend," SteelHouse CEO Mark Douglas told Fox Business Network. "We have a customer who does $1 billion in revenue, $900 million in-store. Those stores are closed, so they’re shifting everything to ecommerce.” 



Since social distancing has changed consumer shopping behaviors globally for the foreseeable future, Greg Pierson, SVP of business planning and development at TransUnion, believes “fraudsters will continue to follow the trends of good consumers and adjust their schemes accordingly.”

The Global Fraud & Identity Solutions report identified a 347% uptick in account takeover and a 391% rise in shipping fraud attempts globally against its online retail customers from 2018 to 2019.

Methods used to take over an account include buying login details on the dark web, credential stuffing, hacking, phishing, romance scams and social engineering. Shipping fraud is when criminals take over a customer account but don’t change the shipping address in order to avoid detection. Once the package has shipped, they intercept it at the carrier site and change the shipping address.

The analyses also points to other fraud within the past year, such as a 42% decrease in promotion abuse from 2018 to 2019. Cybercriminals access accounts to drain loyalty points or create multiple new accounts to use the same promotion over and over, often against website and app terms. TransUnion believes this decrease can be attributed to fraudsters turning to more lucrative schemes such as account takeover.

The report identifies a 32% increase in mobile commerce transactions that led to 78% of all ecommerce transactions coming from mobile devices in 2019, up 33% from the prior year. The online transactions via a mobile device also led to a 118% increase in risky transactions from mobile devices during the same year.

Still, 79% of survey participants said personalization plays an important role in determining where they shop, and 63% said the rely on their mobile phones while shopping in stores mostly to compare prices, check inventory availability and look for offers and coupons.


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