Hannakah Rubin, CAMS also contributed to this article
Recent statistics show cyber-enabled fraud is on pace to reach new highs for this type of illegal activity. COVID-19 stripped away thousands of jobs, and people are more susceptible than ever to quick-money promises and schemes. The influx of money from the U.S. government only adds to the fraud-feeding frenzy. In March of 2020, the US Department of Treasury, the Office of Fiscal Service, and the Internal Revenue Service provided 3 rounds of fast monetary relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States through the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Billions of dollars of 100% guaranteed loans were made available to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). An extension of the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 7(a) loan program, the PPP aimed to help small businesses affected by the pandemic keep their workforce on payroll.
In addition, President Biden oversaw the passing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan), which extended employment assistance and waived some federal taxes on unemployment benefits. Other expansions in government financial assistance include an increase in the Child Tax Credit to assist families who care for children and the Emergency Rental Assistance program, which makes funding available to government entities to assist households that are unable to pay rent or utility bills. In total, $1.9 trillion was designated to stabilize the U.S. economy.
“Help is on the way,” is what the public hears. Unfortunately, fraudsters have taken advantage of vulnerable populations seeking help, especially groups that are less tech-savvy. Fraudsters have adapted quickly to the digital environment and are adept at using social engineering in conjunction with cyber techniques to take advantage of the less sophisticated or financially distressed.