COVID-19 and cyber fraud: emerging threats during the pandemic

Published date12 May 2021
Date12 May 2021
Subject MatterAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorKatelyn Wan Fei Ma,Tammy McKinnon
COVID-19 and cyber fraud:
emerging threats
during the pandemic
Katelyn Wan Fei Ma
Department of Science and Technology Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada, and
Tammy McKinnon
Queens University, Kingston, Canada
Purpose The emergence of thenovel coronavirus (COVID-19) has threatened physicaland mental health,
and changed the behaviour and decision-making processes of individuals, organisations, and institutions
worldwide. As many services move online due to the pandemic, COVID-19-themed cyber fraud is also
growing. This article explores cyber fraudvictimization and cyber security threats during COVID-19 using
psychological and traditional criminological theories. It also provides a COVID-19-themed cyber fraud
typology using empirical evidence from institutional and agency reports. Through organizing COVID-19-
themed cyber fraud into four differentcategorizations, we aim to offer classif‌ication insights to researchers
and industry professionals so that stakeholders can effectively manage emerging cyber fraud risks in our
current pandemic.
Design/methodology/approach The approachthe study take for this conceptual paper is typology.
Keywords Financial crime, Cybercrime, Scams, Cyber security, COVID-19, Cyber fraud, Infodemic,
Pandemic, Policing
Paper type General review
As of 21 January 2021, global COVID-19cases are approaching 100 million, while death tolls
continue to rise and exceed the two millionmark (World Health Organization, 2021). COVID-
19 is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2
virus, a coronavirus that primarily targets the human respiratory system (Rothan and
Byrareddy, 2020). Infections with respiratory viruses are primarily transmitted through
contact transmission, droplet transmission and airborne transmission (Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 2020). Because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19,
infection numbers continueto climb worldwide (Rothan and Byrareddy, 2020). On 11 March
2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic
and many countries quickly responded to the declaration with strict social conf‌inement
enforcement (commonly referred to as lockdowns) as an effective measure to manage
human contact and virus transmission.
COVID-19 continues to impact our daily lives in various ways and lockdown initiatives
have reconf‌igured and reconstructedour social structures and environments. With a stay at
home orders, travel bans and social distancing rules, internet use has spiked, as has a
reliance on online platforms including banking, health care, entertainment, business,
education and essential government services (Hakak et al.,2020). Many people have
transitioned from working in an off‌ice setting to working from home; some are also taking
COVID-19 and
cyber fraud
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.29 No. 2, 2022
pp. 433-446
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-01-2021-0016
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:

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