Abstract- Cybercrime in America amid COVID-19: The Initial Results from a Natural Experiment

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered life, killing hundreds of thousands and leading many countries to issue “stay-at-home” orders to contain the virus’s spread. Based on insights from routine activity theory (Cohen; Felson 1979), it is likely that COVID-19 will influence victimization rates as people alter their routines and spend more time at home and less time in public. Yet, the pandemic may affect victimization differently depending on the type of crime as street crimes appear to be decreasing while domestic crimes are increasing. We consider a third type of crime: cybercrime. Treating the pandemic as a natural experiment, we investigate how the pandemic has affected rates of cybervictimization. We compare pre-pandemic rates of victimization with post-pandemic rates of victimization using datasets designed to track cybercrime. After considering how the pandemic may alter routines and affect cybervictimization, we find that the pandemic has not radically altered cyber-routines nor changed cybervictimization rates. However, a model using routine activity theory to predict cybervictimization offers clear support for the theory’s efficacy both before and after the pandemic. We conclude by considering plausible explanations for our findings.