Fraudsters are Shifting to Travel and Leisure Industries

By: Christine Persaud

September 20, 2021

While digital fraudsters have historically targeted industries like financial services, information and insights company TransUnion reports that they have been shifting to new industries of late, particular travel, leisure, and gaming. This presents new challenges for Canadians who are trying to keep their personal information private and free from identity theft.

According to TransUnion, travel & leisure and gaming were the two industries most impacted in Canada by suspected digital fraud attempts, rising 216.1% and 209.8%, respectively, in just the last year. What’s more, the suspected rate of digital fraud attempts in Canada in general was much higher in the second quarter of 2021 versus Q2 2020 when compared to the global rate during the same time period at 44.9% versus 16.5%. That’s more than twice the global percentage, marking a huge issue in Canada. TransUnion devises its figures from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps using TransUnion TruValidate, the company’s flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite.

TransUnion’s Head of Market Development, Identity Management, and Fraud Solutions, Anne-Marie Kelly, says fraudsters often shift focus and hone-in on industries that are seeing “immense growth in transactions.” So, it makes sense that travel & leisure as well as gaming are being targeted, particularly as the country begins to slowly open back up following lockdowns.

The Most Common Types of Digital Fraud

Naturally, most digital fraud through the last year has leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic to its advantage, with phishing – the act of using e-mail, text messages, or websites to steal personal information – as the number-one type to impact Canadians at 41%. A third (33%) say they were targeted by or fell victim to a phishing scheme of some kind.

Second was stolen credit cards or fraudulent charges, which sat at 25% and is the most common type of digital fraud found in the travel & leisure industry, marking the largest percentage increase.

With gaming, gold farming has become a popular form of digital fraud. This involves a fraudster playing a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) so they can gain in-game currency, then using this currency to sell it in the real-world for actual money. This practice, however, is technically banned by many game operators.

Digital Fraud is on the Rise

TransUnion found in its Consumer Pulse study that more than a third of Canadians were targeted by COVID-19-related digital fraud during the second quarter of 2021.

In addition to Canadian consumers taking steps to be more cautious, businesses also need to work harder to build trust with customers that their personal financial data will be safe.

“As fraudsters continue to target consumers,” says Kelly, “it’s incumbent on businesses to do all that they can to ensure their customers have an appropriate level of security to trust their transaction is safe all while having a friction-right experience to avoid shopping cart abandonment.”

The first line of defense is to understand the types of scams that are most prevalent: knowledge is power. We covered common types of frauds and scams as well as how to combat them back in 2019, which is worth re-reading as a refresher.

But above all else, use common sense and an abundance of caution.

Never click on a link in an e-mail or text message unless you can verify with some certainty that it has indeed arrived from the declared recipient. Even if it has their name attached to it as a sender, whether an individual or a company, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s them. Check first by asking the person or calling the company’s head office number (sources from the website searched from your own browser) to confirm.

Never accept a friend request from a social media site from someone you don’t know.

Never reveal personal details online where it’s viewable by the public, even if it’s something seemingly harmless, like your old pet’s name or the last four digits of your phone number. Such details can be used to tap into or figure out passwords or secret question answers.

Only purchase from reputable websites – if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

Be mindful of the apps you keep on your phone, deleting ones you don’t use, and checking permissions to ensure you aren’t giving the owners access to more details or functions on your device than needed.

Digital fraudsters tend to move from one industry to the next, following the trends. “This quarter,” says Shai Cohen, Senior Vice President of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion, “as countries began to open more from their COVID-19 lockdowns, and travel and other leisure activities became more mainstream, fraudsters clearly appear to have made this industry a topic target.”


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