Fraudsters Shift Focus from Finance to Gaming, Leisure

Fraudsters Shift Focus from Finance to Gaming, Leisure

Many might expect that fraudsters, hackers, and scammers would
primarily seek to target the financial sector to make off with large sums of
money at the expense of others. After all, an industry directly involved in
the transfers and storage of funds would appear to be the most obvious
place criminals could garner potential profits. While this belief has held true
historically – specifically with the rise of online banking and the subsequent
growth of cybercrime – it appears a changing of the tides has occurred
coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that has seen
fraudsters shifting their focus from the financial realm to branching out to
other lucrative industries, including entertainment and hospitality.
A new study by credit reporting company TransUnion has shown that
scammers are now targeting the gaming (i.e. video games) and travel
industries at unprecedented levels. In the second quarter of 2021 alone,
online fraud attempts have increased across the board by 16.5% globally as
compared with the same time frame in 2020 (with U.S-based incidents
rising 17.1%).3 While fraud affecting the financial services industry did rise
approximately 18.8% during this period, all told the largest increase
occurred in the two aforementioned industries. In Q2 of the 2021 fiscal
year, gaming fraud increased by a whopping 393.0%, with travel/leisure
fraud increasing by a 155.9%.1 Social media and retail were also popular
targets of fraud ploys.
The figures backing the shift are striking, though not totally
unexpected to financial analysts and risk management firms. Shai Cohen,
senior vice president of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion. “It is quite
common for fraudsters to shift their focus every few months from one
industry to another,” says Cohen. “Fraudsters tend to seek out industries
that may be seeing an immense growth in transactions.”1 Due to the COVID
pandemic, scammers have already dipped their toes into other industries
that have been impacted, and have sought to capitalize on other avenues
such as the exploitation of unemployment benefits and the novel paycheck
protection program (PPP) enacted to provide relief to American citizens and
business owners who had difficulty keeping their heads above water during
mass lockdowns and a period of unprecedented job loss. TransUnion’s
report also found that one out of every three online consumers has been
targeted by online fraud related to Covid-19, with approximately 1/3 of
those targeted being successfully defrauded.2With more people staying at home, targeting gaming makes sense from a
scammer’s perspective. Young people have spent far more time indoors
under quarantine mandates, many playing video games to keep themselves
entertained. With the gaming market already booming, this sector evolved
into a prime target with now even more potential to be exploited. In what
used to be considered a hobby limited to only younger generations, gaming
has become mainstream with many adults. However, children remain the
group most susceptible to financial crime/fraud ploys given their naivety.
Children with access to mobile games and able to make micro-transactions
on their smartphones (often backed by the payment/personal identification
information of their parents) can be easily fooled and are not likely to take
security measures like secure passwords seriously. Furthermore, with
approximately 2 billion individuals partaking in some form of recreational
gaming across the world today and the rise of online shopping and digital
downloads to common gaming platforms such as Sony’s Playstation and
Microsoft’s Xbox, tactics such as credential-stuffing and account takeover
attacks (ATO) has grown exponentially since 2020 alone. Credential
stuffing is a form of cyberattack where criminals use large databases of
stolen login credentials (usernames and passwords) to “stuff” account logins
into other web applications using automated processes. Once they are able
to gain access to the accounts of others, they can then make fraudulent
purchases, conduct phishing attacks, and steal valuable personal
information, funds, or both, wreaking havoc on the livelihood of those
affected. This practice is particularly potent against consumers who use the
same login credentials across different websites/online accounts and those
who store payment information on said sites.
With respect to the travel industry, fraudsters are well aware that travel
restrictions remain in various countries around the world right now. While
normalized domestic travel has largely resumed in the United States,
citizens being cooped up for so long under lockdowns coupled with
economic relief packages provided by the federal government giving
qualified individuals a small surplus of “free” cash to their names have lead
many to believe that an even larger boom of domestic & international travel
may be upcoming. As such, American citizens must be wary of travel fraud
booking trips and airfare through reputable websites and avoiding faulty
travel insurance claims (i.e. policies not covering trip cancellations due to
the coronavirus outbreak) and vacation rental cons.
As always, scammers follow the money. If there is an industry that is
thriving, fraudsters will alter their practices to capitalize on new demand. “What we are seeing has been fairly consistent since the pandemic started,”
said Melissa Gaddis, senior director of customer success, global fraud
solutions at TransUnion. “People perpetuating fraud go to where the money
is and go to where the opportunity lies.”3
1. Blumberg, Dave. “Fraudsters Shift Focus at Mid-Point of 2021 from Financial Services to Travel and
Leisure and Other Industries.” Fraudsters Shift Focus at Mid-Point of 2021 from Financial Services to
Travel and Leisure and Other Industries, TransUnion, 11 Aug. 2021. 
2. Coble, Sarah. “Digital Fraud up, but Targets Have Changed.” Infosecurity Magazine, 11 Aug. 2021. 
3. Dore, Kate. “Cyberfraud Shifts to Gaming, Travel, and LEISURE, Report Finds.” CNBC, CNBC, 11 Aug.

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