by Ann Snook

Experts warn that crypto currency and COVID-19 are the center of this year’s newest fraud schemes.

Between 2018 and 2020, 56 per cent of people fell victim to at least one type of fraud. Fraudsters come up with more targeted, complex and crafty schemes all the time, making it difficult to protect yourself. To prevent fraud in your personal and professional life, it’s important to read up on emerging trends and how to avoid them.

In this article, experts weigh in on the 2021 fraud trends you need to watch out for.

1. Cryptocurrency Fraud

Cryptocurrency has become an increasingly popular payment method, especially because people are making more online purchases to limit errands outside their homes. Unfortunately, fraudsters have come up with new schemes surrounding it.

“We should be wary of fake crypto investing sites, fake digital wallet scams, new varieties of ransomware and crypto-jacking,” says James Page, crypto technical writer at Crypto Head.

Here’s a quick run-down of each of these 2021 fraud schemes:
Fraudulent crypto investment websites: Fraudsters take victims’ money, claiming they’ll invest it in cryptocurrency mining farms or trading systems
Fake digital wallets: A digital wallet is a place to store your cryptocurrency. Scammers have created fake wallet apps that they use to swipe users’ funds.
New ransomware: Fraudsters install a program to take over your device until you pay them a ransom in their cryptocurrency of choice.
Crypto-jacking: Hackers take over the victim’s computer by getting them to click a malicious link and install code that mines cryptocurrency in the background. Victims might not even know that they’ve been attacked except for laggy operations.

Fraudsters might also incorporate cryptocurrency into other types of schemes because it’s harder to regulate and track. For example, in a romance fraud scheme where the scammer pretends to be in a relationship with the victim, they’ll request cryptocurrency instead of a regular money transfer.

2. Charity Scams

Fake charities are another threat to look out for in 2021.

“Especially during the pandemic, these scams pull on our heartstrings,” says David Fleck, fraud attorney and co-founder and CEO of Veritable Data Solutions. “You might get a phone call from somebody claiming to be with a major, well-known charity who is soliciting money. They will tell you how to wire the money, but the charity will never see it.”

Losing money to fraud always stings, but it can feel extra upsetting when you thought you were giving to those in need. To avoid falling victim to a charity scam, Fleck suggests doing just 10 seconds of research.

“If someone claiming to be with American Cancer Society calls you, tell them you’ll call them right back. Then, Google the American Cancer Society’s phone number. Then, you can make a donation you know will go to the right place.”

3. Fake COVID-19 Vaccines

Starting in 2020, a slew of new scams related to COVID-19 emerged. With the rollout of vaccines, 2021’s newest coronavirus frauds involve fake vaccinations against the virus.

Fleck explains, “The scam works like this: ads bring in people seeking vaccines or testing and persuade them to pay a fee. Scammers would target the uninsured population that would pay out of pocket, and then offer them a discount if they pay for the treatment in advance. Once they’ve paid, they show up and find there’s no vaccine.”

This scheme taps into people’s fears about catching or spreading the virus while also taking advantage of the un- or under-insured.

After months of being stuck at home, people long to get back to “normal” life, which could cloud their judgement. They might be in such a hurry to be done with COVID-19 that they don’t recognize an offer of jumping the vaccination line that is too good to be true.