With COVID-19 bringing unprecedented challenges to enterprises and consumers alike, new research from call verification and fraud detection company, Next Caller, shows a worrisome increase in call traffic from bad actors looking to cash in on new vulnerabilities created by the global pandemic.
The company’s Fraud & COVID-19 Report: Preparing For Waves of Fraud and Consumer Confusion found that during the week of March 16 -- which coincided with the time that many Americans started staying home to curb the spread of COVID-19 -- there was an extraordinary strain placed on contact centers operated by Fortune 500 banking clients. While the rapid rise in call volumes may not be entirely surprising, Next Caller has uncovered a far more alarming trend.
Internal data reveals a massive increase in call spoofing, the primary technique phone criminals use to trick businesses into automatically matching them with customer accounts. While data suggests that consumer calling may ebb and flow weekly, suspicious or high risk calls have increased unabated. After just 3 weeks, high-risk calls are up 28% on average, outpacing the growth rate of overall call traffic-- suggesting that as concerned customers call in waves, hundreds of thousands of potentially fraudulent attacks pummel contact centers in their wake.
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To shed light on the potential impact that this influx of criminal activity could have on both the enterprise and the general public, Next Caller combined internal data with a research study administered to over 1,000 Americans. Amongst the many findings, the study found that 32% of Americans believe that they have already been targeted by some form of fraud related to COVID-19.
With millions awaiting financial relief from the government's $2Trillion stimulus package, the activity seen to date may be the precursor to an impending tsunami of fraud aimed at stealing money and information from individuals. Widespread anxiety and confusion only threaten to exacerbate the problem by providing ample cover for fraudsters to stress-test contact center security systems.
"It’s no surprise that fraudsters are exploiting a chaotic circumstance, that’s the playbook," says Next Caller CEO Ian Roncoroni. "What is particularly dangerous is the timing and the broadening scope of the schemes. People are understandably confused and distracted, and so they may be more likely to let down their guard, especially when attacked from new and different directions. And while businesses are desperate to provide relief, contact centers don’t stand a chance when criminals can successfully pose as customers. It’s the perfect storm for fraud."
Findings from the report include:
- During the week of March 16-23, two Fortune 500 financial institutions saw call volumes spike over 35%. Telecommunications companies saw similar volume increases.
- In the most drastic case, during Week 3 one financial institution saw call volumes increase to almost 60% above Pre-COVID-19 levels. Call volume across all clients closed Week 3 up over 15% from traffic prior to Week 1.
- Weeks 1-3 show a steady rise in high-risk calls disproportionate to the ebb and flow of overall call traffic patterns.
- After 3 weeks, high-risk calls are up nearly 30% without a decline during that time period.
- At the same time, nearly 1-in-3 Americans (32%) say that they believe they’ve already been targeted by fraud or scams related to COVID-19.
- 52% of Americans are more concerned about being victimized by fraud than they normally would be due to COVID-19 related fraud and scams.
- Nearly 1-in-3 Americans are "not at all confident" that businesses and government institutions are taking the necessary measures.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About Next Caller:
Next Caller helps you append a phone number with: Name, Address, Line Type, Email, Twitter Handle, Facebook Profile, Linkedin Profile, Age Range, Gender, Annual Household Income, Marital Status, Home Owner Status, Home Market Value, Length of Residence, Estimated Net Worth, Occupation, Education Level, and more. Next Caller also helps you detect call spoofing with real-time spoof detection.
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2020
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