Fraud and identity theft cases have surged in New York State during the COVID-19 pandemic and are still at an all-time high. According to Rochester First, identity theft cases increased by up to 85% between 2019 and 2020, and New Yorkers reportedly lost up to $50.9 million to fraud schemes.
The most common scams used by fraudsters include inheritance scams, phishing scams, and lottery and sweepstakes scams. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that New York comes in second for the state with the most money lost to fraud in 2020. Identity theft and fraud is a serious crime. While a person charged with a third or subsequent offense in their lifetime can be charged with a felony, identity theft of property or money not exceeding $300 in value is considered a Class 4 felony.
But why is identity theft increasing now? And what was it about the COVID-19 pandemic that caused fraud to jump so high? The answer to both questions: increased vulnerability.
COVID-19 and Healthcare-Related Fraud
During the COVID-19 pandemic and as the pandemic continues, medical visits and health insurance calls were scheduled more than usual. Victims of the pandemic or their loved ones may not have thought twice about bills or phone calls that may otherwise be suspicious. Scammers pretending to be health insurance providers or medical debt collectors preyed on New Yorkers with healthcare-related schemes costing residents as much as $1,998,102. In comparison, in 2019, the cost of healthcare-related fraud in New York State was $226,382.
Cybercrime and Working From Home
Another reason why identity theft and fraud are at an all-time high is because of the surge of remote workers. With a greater number of New Yorkers working from home to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudsters and scammers have taken to using phishing scams and cyberattacks in an effort to glean information and data. With over 900,000 domains registered per week, scammers can make fake websites to phish for information. To make matters worse, between 75% to 80% of all malicious cyberattacks come from within an organization rather than an external threat.
Staying safe and secure
To help New Yorkers stay safe and secure, experts recommend keeping a close eye on your financial records including your credit score to make sure your records match up with your spending. Never make payments to healthcare companies over the phone, especially when you can’t confirm the person’s identity. Avoid answering emails asking for personal information, especially related to your finances. Finally, be sure to regularly update your computer’s antivirus software to keep cybercriminals out.