Virtual Fraud During COVID-19
In April 2021, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report entitled “Protecting Consumers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Year in Review.”
Backed by law enforcement, the agency began its work in March 2020 to go after offenders. Before going any further, I need to say that every fraud perpetrated was done by virtual means.
The report showed that at least 13 companies “failed to deliver personal protective equipment or made deceptive health or earnings claims,” that more than 350 companies made deceptive claims related to treatments, financial relief, and earnings related to off-line work.
However, what interested us the most at Virtual Training Associates (VTA) was unethical conducted related to “…digital work and schooling, including videoconferencing, ed-tech and health-tech.”
Under the guise of virtual training, fraud was able to skyrocket. One area that should not be a surprise was in the unethical invasion of privacy.
“The Commission published guidance for education technology companies and schools regarding their duties to protect children’s privacy and personal data as many students shifted to online instruction.”
However, the invasion of privacy was not only related to children.
“The Commission also brought an administrative action challenging misleading claims by Zoom Video Communications, Inc., that gave users a false sense of security about how their information was handled (and prevented) Zoom from making a wide variety of privacy- and security-related misrepresentations and requires it to implement an information security program.”
During the lockdown there was also an explosion of healthcare apps and healthcare instruction. One such company that tracked fertility issues (“Flo”) “…shared users’ health information with outside data analytics providers after promising that such information would be kept private.”
This information relates to a recent article by cyber expert Hugh McCullen entitled “Virtual Training: The Good, the Bad and the Truth.” McCullen cites an old study by Forbes magazine on virtual training that stands the test of time. Several obstacles to effective virtual training were listed including:
- Lack of in-person verbal communication.
- Lack of social interaction.
- Virtual Training Associates teachesVirtual Training Associates teaches
- Creates cultural mishaps.
- Kills team spirit.
During the pandemic we may not have been able to circumvent in-person communication, however, the other reasons listed could – and can be addressed with experienced virtual trainers and a high-quality course and presentation.
Where it Comes Together
If we study the 5 key points in the article above, with the FTC report, the point of intersection is in the word “trust.” The lack of established trust between virtual training and the recipients of the virtual goods and/or services.
Whether frauds occurred through parents entrusting sites with their children, adults and videoconferencing sessions, or apps linked to online training, the results could be damaging if not catastrophic.
It must come down to knowing your virtual training, virtual trainer, quality of training and seriously studying the reputation of the firm.
Virtual Training Associates teaches ethics, sports ethics and related topics such as the prevention of workplace bullying and gender discrimination. We have a solid background with more than 20 years of instruction and numerous references.
Our work started far ahead of COVID-19 and will continue far into the future. This mission is one we take seriously – and with purpose.
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