How Customers Are Shopping During COVID-19

And Why Fraud Is Rising

Written by Rebekah Moss 16 Apr 2020 - 5 Minutes reading time

Whilst COVID-19 has forced the spending habits of consumers to change almost overnight, the ways in which we measured fraud was in part a reactionary statistic that could be categorised into payment type, card-present and card-not-present purchases, and the measures that are taken by merchants to protect themselves.

However, as shoppers sit idle in their homes waiting to click ‘add to cart’, so do fraudsters with a no holds barred approach.

Simply put, as e-commerce volume increases, so does the opportunity for card-not-present and remote fraud. Let’s take a look at how COVID-19 has affected customer spending habits, and just how easy these avenues are for fraudsters to target.

Whilst countries across the world are falling into economic freefall, particularly in brick-and-mortar retail and hospitality sectors; wherein foot traffic has halted - the majority of retail sectors online have seen an increase in transaction volume since lockdown measures began. On average, transactional data from Visa has shown a 21% increase in shopping online across all sectors.

In extension to placing orders through an online store, Visa’s study detailed that there was a 17% increase in demand for subscription services, as well as a 29% increase in click and collect in-store services.

Using data from our payment gateway, the month of March 2020 alone saw significant rises compared to the year before in the following categories across e-commerce:

  • Homeware and other furnishings: > 97%

  • DIY products: > 136%

  • Gardening tools and products: > 163%

  • Electronics: > 26.6%

  • Telco: > 18.6 %

However, other industries saw steep declines:

  • Ticketing Services: < 60%

  • Travel Industry: < 44%

  • Online dating: < 8.9%

Arguably, the only surviving sector across both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sectors could be the supermarket; as UK supermarkets saw a 20.6% increase in sales during March 2020; a year-on-year growth of 7.6%.

Globally, there was a 74% increase in transaction volumes across retail sectors of all kinds in March alone when compared to the year before; with gaming seeing a significant rise of 97%.

When we assessed similar data taken from China - who was the first known country of origin for the coronavirus - there was a domestic peak in the number of gaming transactions there also - citing the sector as one to profit from lockdown measures.

However, on a whole, the rise in e-commerce is undoubtedly not enough to prevent recessions across the world, as France announces it has fallen into recession; 69% of UK businesses have recorded a drop in demand for their services - a number that is bigger for small to medium-sized enterprises (77%).

Whilst e-commerce is profiting from the lockdown - some more than others - the once thought declining threat of fraud has begun to rear its ugly head.

Taking advantage of the same rise in retail that online businesses are profiting from, studies have also marked an increase in fraud as consumers act out of impulse more than ever.

Whilst successful fraud attempts had seen a year-on-year decline of 8%, it had also seen a year-on-year rise of 5% when comparing purchase value data from 2018 and 2019. In the month of March 2020, the year-on-year comparison was estimated to have seen a 13% rise; demonstrating the impact of COVID-19.

Why is there an increase in Fraud?

Simply put, volume. With the increase in sales being made via e-commerce, there are undoubtedly better odds for fraudsters to succeed as a result. However, there are other variables to consider:

  • SCA delays:

In the wake of COVID-19, the regulatory standards surrounding PSD2 and SCA (which had already been delayed to spring 2021) were already subject to further review. Major card schemes had announced that they were unlikely to penalise businesses who had yet to comply with any strong customer authentication methods throughout the crisis.

-The increase in contactless:

In a considerably smart move to increase the contactless limit in certain EEA countries from £30 to £45 - before requiring further authentication elements; this leaves room for higher fraudulent transaction purchases to be made.

  • Gift Cards:

In an effort to continue to draw in revenue, many businesses are offering e-gift cards as a way to offer a service that can be redeemed later. However, gift cards easily fall into a number of scams that fraudsters use to both manipulate customers and merchants.

  • GDPR:

GDPR policies contain exemptions in cases of the public interest - for instance, a pandemic - to allow financial institutions and health agencies to respond to the public in a timely manner. However, these are details that can easily be used and manipulated by fraudsters impersonating your bank or other entities.

  • Going Digital Quickly:

Many brick-and-mortar stores will have set up an online store quickly in the face of COVID-19 in an effort to stay processing. However, too little or too much security can cause both friction and fraud with significant ramifications and loss to revenue.

  • A Spike in Chargebacks:

As businesses continue to lose their workforce or encounter issues with their supply chain, there will undoubtedly be a rise in chargebacks when orders are unable to be fulfilled, or there is a drop in the quality of service. Known as friendly fraud, a chargeback can threaten the long-term ability to process for any business alongside hefty fines.

Total Processing is on-hand to help protect you and your customers against fraud in whatever capacity you require.

With our PCI DSS compliant payment gateway, each and every transaction is met with 3D secure authentication for the utmost security. With diverse chargeback alerts and prevention systems in place, as well as additional AVS and CVV checks; we can help merchants feel assured that their customer journey is not only safe but optimised.

Our in-house support teams and technical engineers are working as normal to ensure that our services are tailored specifically to your business, whether you’re just getting started in e-commerce or switching over.

Get in touch to learn more.

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