As lockdowns rolled out around the world, consumers became more reliant on their computers and phones than ever before, for education, work, shopping, socializing and so much more. All of our usual everyday activities went virtual, including potentially sensitive activities like our banking, creating new vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to take advantage of.
At the same time, contact centers around the world abruptly shifted to telecommuting, taking in an increasing number of customer service calls as customers worked through new challenges at home.
Call centers, especially for the life, health and annuity sectors, take in a variety of private information and data every day to solve customer issues, and that couldn’t just stop because of this period of remote work.
In fact, at the height of the pandemic, some enterprise call centers saw call volumes increase by over 1,000% from normal levels, creating the kind of chaos opportunistic fraudsters are always on the lookout for.
In short, COVID-19 has created the perfect storm for fraud.
The evolving fraud landscape during COVID-19
Our entire world has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the same holds true for fraudsters’ ever-evolving tactics. Fraudsters know exactly when, how and who to target to get the biggest payoffs, and they certainly have let that show during the pandemic. By mid-April, the FTC had already logged over 8,000 new fraud cases, with reported losses reaching nearly $5 million. But how are fraudsters carrying out these attacks? In the call center, there are several common tactics fraudsters employ to trick agents into handing over financial details by pulling at their heartstrings.
One of the early appeals fraudsters employed was for emergency financial assistance due to travel restrictions. Fraudsters use the sensitive details they’ve stolen from phishing or other attacks to impersonate a banking customer, urging the call center agent to wire them money or send a new credit card while they are stuck out of the country.
Another common tactic carried out in the call center is caretaker fraud. In this scenario, a scammer calls into a banking call center pretending to be the caretaker of a customer who is sick and in need of financial assistance for medical bills, asking the agent to give them access to their account and related info.