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Same Tactics, Different Scripts: What Contact Center Fraud Sounds Like in the Age of Coronavirus

Fraudsters thrive during periods of chaos and uncertainty. Any disruption to the status quo provides an opportunity to seize sensitive consumer data and leverage it against individuals and their financial institutions.

Significant increases in phone, text and email phishing are enabling fraudsters to take advantage of the current financial uncertainty and public health concerns. Access to personal information leads to validating the data with targeted institution’s own customer services tools, mainly through contact center agents directly, or through the automated interactive voice response systems. 

With verified account numbers and some basic information, a fraudster has all they need to execute fraud through the phone channel using convincing scripts involving the current crisis to socially engineer contact center agents and individuals.  

Scammers are using new versions of old tactics to leverage times of uncertainty, fear and heightened emotion to expose individuals and contact centers to an increase in fraud incidents.

Today’s post will be a brief look at the tactics fraudsters have been using in the current climate of uncertainty. 

The New Fraud Scripts

In “normal” times, a fraudster’s script may have read something like this: 

I’m going to be traveling overseas, please lift any fraud monitoring for me for two weeks because I’ll be out of the country and don’t want my card blocked.

Or, a different angle: 

I’m leaving for a three-week vacation and I need you to wire me money as I want to have plenty of cash-on-hand for expenses and incidentals.

But times have changed, and just as fraudsters’ tactics are constantly evolving to meet the security measures to stop them, the same holds true for the scripts they’re currently adapting to profit from public fears and panic. By the middle of April, the FTC had already logged over 8,000 fraud reports with reported losses that total nearly $5 million.

Here are four categories of current fraud tactics to be on the lookout for, including examples of the most common “scripts” we’re hearing reported by contact center agents and fraud analysts around the country.

Travel-Related Inconveniences and Emergencies 

Many of the most common scripts involve appeals for emergency financial assistance due to travel restrictions and guidelines set forth by the federal and state government. One narrative that we’re hearing from a number of agents involves fraudsters claiming to be stuck outside the country. It sounds something like:

I left the country over a month ago and don’t even know when I’m going to be allowed to come home. This is an emergency. I need you to wire me money because of the travel restrictions from this pandemic, or make an immediate ACH transfer, now.

There’s typically a sense of urgency, as fraudsters are aware of the high call volumes that agents and analysts are currently contending with. Armed with the consumer data they’ve acquired from a vast increase in phishing scams, fraudsters are primed to scam the contact center and take advantage of agents who are attempting to assist people in genuine need.

Caretaker Fraud

What is an agent supposed to do when a scammer calls in frantically asserting that a person they’re caring for is in dire need of financial assistance to pay for emergency medical bills?

I’m calling on behalf of Mrs. Smith, who’s in the hospital right now with complications due to COVID-19. She’s isolated from her immediate family, who live out-of-state, and she has asked me to help her get access to the funds she badly needs for bills, rent and everything else. I’m the only person she has access to and I’m the only one that can help her.

There has been a marked increase in fraudulent activity targeting the elderly. In an attempt to stay on top of important financial and health updates, seniors may inadvertently click on a scammer’s link and make their private financial data and login credentials vulnerable, which fraudsters then use to gain access to their banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, and more.

Send Me a New Card / Raise Spending Limit

The current public health crisis has reverberated throughout financial markets, leading to an unprecedented number of unemployment claims in the past month, opening both individuals and FI’s to the associated scams that prey on peoples’ financial panic.

A red flag should go up for any direct requests for a new card or increased spending limit. Fraudsters aren’t calling in to set up payment plans or request payment forbearances. Rather, they’re attempting to scam the contact center with urgent messages about how the current pandemic has put them in a position where they need access to more of their money, and right now.

I lost my job due to all this craziness. At first, I worked from home but was laid off a month ago and I’m still waiting on the loan assistance and unemployment I filed for. I’m facing eviction, can’t afford groceries and need to feed my kids. I really need you to raise the spending limit on my card.

 -or-

I’m quarantined at my parents’ house in Michigan and all of my credit cards, not to mention everything else I own, are back at my apartment in New York. I need you to send me a new card. I was also furloughed, so please increase the limit on the card so I can bridge the gap until I receive unemployment.

Financial Surrogate Scams 

Finally, fraudsters are targeting some of the largest financial institutions by gathering consumer data with mobile and email scams that claim an individual’s account has been compromised. Unwitting people concerned about their financial security click on bad links, providing sensitive information to fraudsters who turn around and use it to drain their bank accounts and max out their credit cards acting as financial surrogates.

I have legal power of attorney for Mr. Johnson, who is gravely ill and in no position to speak to anyone in person, let alone over the phone. He has medical bills to pay. Please wire money / make a direct ACH deposit into this other account.

Even as most people are rallying together to get through the current challenges facing our world, bad actors are attempting to exploit vulnerabilities and capitalize on the uncertainty of the time. Contact centers should be on alert as fraudsters continue to adapt their tricks and tactics, appeal to emotions, and convey urgency to carry out their scams.

Pindrop Protect’s anti-fraud solution arms your fraud team with predictive analytics, machine-learning, and productivity saving accuracy. The technology allows you to identify fraudulent cross-channel activity — often before it occurs, utilize enhanced IVR monitoring capabilities, and stop potential phone fraud in real-time. To learn more about Pindrop® Protect, check out our on-demand webinar on Pindrop Pulse.