New TransUnion Research Finds Identity Fraud at Center of Many Digital COVID-19 Scams

New research from TransUnion LLC’s (NYSE: TRU) Consumer Financial Hardship studies found that phishing is the top digital fraud scheme worldwide related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among consumers reporting being targeted with digital COVID-19 schemes globally, 27% said they were hit with pandemic-themed phishing scams. To help prevent identity fraud that can result from phishing, TransUnion utilizes solutions within their flagship IDVision with iovation suite that focus on identity verification, consumer authentication and fraud prevention.

“From the impacts of phishing and other well documented COVID-19 scams like unemployment fraud, it’s clear that fraudsters have the data and increasing opportunities to create synthetic identities and utilize stolen identities,” said Anne-Marie Kelly, VP, Market Development, Identity Management and Fraud Solutions for TransUnion. “According to surveyed Canadians, identity fraud is a primary way fraudsters leverage stolen consumer data from phishing, the most common threat in Canada, and other social engineering schemes. It can have long-term impacts for consumers such as the compromise of multiple online accounts and bringing down credit scores, which we anticipate will increase during pandemic reconstruction.”

To better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on consumers, TransUnion surveyed 7,384 adults in Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S. between June 30 and July 6, 2020. It asked the consumers if they had been targeted by digital COVID-19 fraud and if so, which digital fraud scheme(s) related to COVID-19 were they targeted with. Globally, 32% said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19 with the below being the top types of COVID-19 fraud they faced:

Top Global Online COVID-19 Scams Targeting Consumers


Percentage Hit by Scheme

Among Those Targeted by Digital COVID-19 Fraud

1. Phishing


2. Third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites


3. Charity and fundraising scam


4. Unemployment scam


5. Fraudulent COVID-19 vaccines, cures, tests, and PPE


6. Fake insurance


7. Shipping fraud


8. Identity theft


9. Stolen credit card or fraudulent charges


10. Stimulus check scam


11. Someone changing your personal or account information via a call center


12. Account taken over



Online COVID-19 Scams Targeting Consumers by Country


Top Fraud Type

Percent Targeted by All Digital COVID-19 Fraud





Third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites


Hong Kong



South Africa

Unemployment scam








“Although the schemes may vary by country, a new approach to identity verification that supplements traditional authentication methods is needed to defend against their impact,” said Kelly. “The key is creating a friction-right experience where consumers are confident they are dealing with a legitimate organization or business.”

TransUnion Capabilities to Combat Identity Fraud

IDVision® with iovation®, TransUnion’s flagship identity verification, consumer authentication and fraud prevention solution suite unites personal and digital data into one of the most comprehensive data identity platforms in the world.

  • With Enhanced Bureau Verification Services Identity, TransUnion offers a solution that can assist in the identification and risk categorization of consumers, while keeping customer friction to a minimum throughout the process. The result is a better ability to detect fraud while quickly approving good customers and minimizing back-office reviews.
  • TransUnion’s Address Verification Services (AVS) compares credit card numbers and other consumer information with the TransUnion credit bureau file to help verify that all information matches the billing file. AVS helps businesses look for fraudulent transactions and chargebacks—especially valuable for internet and mail order/telephone order merchants, who have greater challenges in identifying customers.
  • With IDVision with iovation Device capabilities, TransUnion provides a comprehensive view of consumer identity. This solution stores fraud evidence for devices identified as being used in fraudulent transactions, with up to five years of historical device data available.

“Given the digital transformation that’s been accelerated by the recent pandemic, it’s more important than ever to secure trust in faceless channels with a simple consumer experience by reducing the need for businesses to manually review transactions,” said Shirley Inscoe, senior analyst at technology analyst firm Aite Group.

This solution also includes a global network of fraud and risk insights, employing data of fraudulent activity for additional insights about devices, locations and behaviour. TransUnion prioritizes actionable data to act confidently based on all pertinent risk factors associated with email, phone and IP address, where applicable.

For more details about TransUnion’s fraud and identity management solutions, go here. To download TransUnion’s Consumer Hardship Studies, go here.

About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.® TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people in more than 30 countries. Our customers in Canada comprise some of the nation’s largest banks and card issuers, and TransUnion is a major credit reporting, fraud, and analytics solutions provider across the finance, retail, telecommunications, utilities, government and insurance sectors.

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Contact Fiona Bang