We Fight Fraud: Covid Makes Criminals Go Cashless


We Fight Fraud (WFF) has used its unique access to the criminal underworld to discover how Covid-19 is transforming business within the illicit economy. The findings, announced today, include a move towards transacting the proceeds of crime via bank transfers and trading illegal goods on social media. This will alarm legitimate businesses, especially banks and FinTech organisations, who are being used to launder money, in breach of the regulations governing them. Legitimate businesses are also being used to facilitate fraud. The implications of the findings will be published in a whitepaper, to be discussed at the WFF Live conference on 28th April – a free to attend, virtual event for business professionals, supported by fraud prevention specialists, LexisNexis® Risk Solutions.

Dr Nicola Harding, WFF Advisor and academic specialising in fraud, is lead author of the whitepaper. She explained: “The operational changes we found mirror those experienced by legitimate businesses during the pandemic, who reported a dramatic decrease in the use of cash. We found that the preferred option for criminals is now bank transfers, while some are also using PayPal or premium rate telephone numbers to send funds.”

The whitepaper’s findings also demonstrate how significant social media has become in connecting the legitimate economy with the underworld. Simon, who works in IT, shared with the researchers the process of buying cannabis from a page on Instagram. He paid by bank transfer and the drugs were delivered to his house via Royal Mail – all within 36 hours.

The WFF team will all be speaking at the event and include: Tony Sales – dubbed ‘Britain’s Greatest Fraudster’ by the Sun newspaper – who now helps household-name brands avoid fraud; Andy McDonald, former head of counter terrorist, organised crime and fraud teams at New Scotland Yard; and Solomon Gilbert, former child hacker, who has since worked with the National Crime Agency.

Tony Sales explained: “Criminal behaviour has adapted, innovated and evolved during the current crisis. We Fight Fraud uniquely talks to criminals to understand their activities. There was an assumption that the decline of cash would make life more difficult for criminals. Our findings show that the reverse is true.”

Ellie Burns, a Fraud and Identity specialist with lead sponsors, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, explains the significance of the conference and the report: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on the way all businesses operate. The WFF findings show that it is no different with the criminal underworld. In order to keep pace with the constantly shifting cybercrime landscape, we must come together to share trends, insights and knowledge. We Fight Fraud Live is a unique opportunity to do exactly that and we are delighted to be involved.”

To book a seat at the free conference go to www.wefightfraud.org/live. The virtual conference will be sending delegate packs to 500 people registering to attend from the industry and the media. These will include a copy of the whitepaper, offers and goods.

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