Six Fraud Trends to Look Out for During a Recession

October 4, 2022 by Guest Contributor

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Written by: Mihail Blagoev

As there is talk about the global economy potentially heading into a recession, while some suggest that it has already started, there is an expectation that many of the world’s countries will see their economic output decline in the next couple of months or a year. Among the negative trends that can occur during a recession are companies making fewer sales and people losing their jobs.

Unfortunately, just like any other economic crisis, fraud is expected to go in the opposite direction as criminals continue finding innovative ways to attack consumers when they’re most vulnerable. There is also a concern that first-party fraud attempts might rise as genuine consumers are pushed over the edge by inflation and economic uncertainty. With that in mind, here are six fraud trends that are likely to happen during a recession:

Fraudsters exploiting the vulnerable 

It is well-documented that fraudsters found numerous ways to exploit the vulnerable during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is expected to happen again in the coming months. As the cost of living rises, criminals will try to use that in their favor by looking for people who can’t pay their utility bills or can’t afford the price of gas or even food. Fraudsters will try to exploit that by offering them deals, discounts, refunds, or just about anything that will make people believe they are paying less for something that has increased in value or is out of reach at its normal price.

Fraudsters have two main goals behind these tactics – stealing personal information to use in other crimes or gaining immediate financial benefits. Although their tactics are well-known – applying pressure on their victims to make quick decisions or offering them something that sounds like a great deal, but in truth, it isn’t – that won’t prevent them from trying. These scams show that, unlike in other industries, criminals do not rely on high success rates to achieve their goals. All they need is one or two victims out of every few hundred to fall for their schemes.

Loan origination fraud

Periods of financial instability often result in an increase in first-party fraud, among others. This could take many forms, and there is a possibility for an increase in fraudulent loan applications by genuine consumers to be among the most popular ones. In this type of fraud, bad actors lie on registration forms or applications to gain access to funds they wouldn’t normally receive if they added their real information. That could be done by lying about their income and employment information, usually inflating their salaries, extending the amount of time they worked for a certain company, or simply adding a company they have never worked for. Other popular forgeries include anything from supplying fake phone numbers and addresses to providing fake bank statements and utility bills.

Money mules

Recessions can result in layoffs or people looking for work not being able to find any. That’s another opportunity for fraudsters to exploit the vulnerable by offering them “jobs.” This could be achieved by posting job ads on real employment websites or social media. Once recruited, people are asked to open new bank accounts or use their previously opened accounts to transfer funds to accounts that are in the possession of criminals. In the end, the funds get laundered, while the genuine account holder receives a fee for the service. People of all ages are a possible target, but this is especially true for younger generations who often don’t understand the consequences of their activities. 

Friendly fraud

Another type of first-party fraud that could go up as a result of the increased economic pressures could be friendly fraud. In this type of fraud that mostly affects the retail industry, consumers charge back genuine payments made by them in order to end up with both the product purchased and the funds for it back in their possession. They could then keep the product or quickly resell it for less than its original value. Luxury goods and electronics could be especially attractive for this type of fraud. Claiming non-deliveries or transactions not being recognized could be among the top reasons used for charging back the transactions.

Investment fraud

During times of economic hardship, people are often looking for ways to keep their savings from getting eaten by inflation. Investments in property could be one solution, but as it is not affordable for everyone, people are also looking for other ways to invest their money. While this isn’t exactly a vulnerability, it is something that criminals are looking to exploit greatly. They usually reach out to potential victims through social media while also presenting them with fake websites that mimic those by real investors. The opportunities being offered can range from cryptocurrency to various schemes and products that don’t exist or are worthless. However, after the criminals obtain possession of the funds, they discontinue their contact with the victims.

Fake goods

While this shouldn’t happen to the same extent that was seen in 2020, there is a chance that some goods might disappear from certain markets. There could be a variety of reasons for that, from companies limiting their production or going out of business due to inability to pay their bills or shortage in sales to issues with supply chains due to the high gas and oil prices. Expect fraudsters to be the first to move in if there are shortages and start offering fake products or goods that will never arrive. 

It is still difficult to measure if or when a recession will hit each corner of the world or how long it will take for the next phase in the financial cycle to begin. However, one thing that is certain is that the longer it takes the economy to settle, the more opportunities criminals will have to benefit from their schemes and come up with new ways to defraud people.

Businesses should monitor the fraud environment around them closely and be ready to adjust their fraud management strategies quickly. They should also understand the complexity of the problems in front of them and that they will likely need a mixture of capabilities to sort them out while keeping their customer base happy. This is where fraud orchestration platforms could help by offering the needed solutions to solve multiple fraud issues and the flexibility to turn any of these tools on and off when needed.

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