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Online fraud – an unrelenting, unforgiving battleground…

The recent release of the annual UK fraud figures describes an interesting picture of some successes and some areas for continued concern and renewed action.

First, the headline successes. Fraud conducted in the face-to-face retail environment continues to show a healthy decline trend (down 14% on the previous year) with card ID theft (down 19%) and cheques (down 35% off a rapidly decreasing base) also showing notable declines.  These figures show an industry that continues to tackle some of the key fraud issues head-on, however, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed, writes Vaughan Collie, Partner, Accourt – Payments Specialists.

On the downside, e-commerce and online banking continue to be areas of material concern.

E-commerce fraud has increased by 14%, continuing its worrying upward trend. These figures show an above average fraud-to-sales ratio (i.e. a common industry indicator of how much fraud loss is experienced for every unit of sales) in an industry where online commerce continues to grow exponentially and, with the increasing popularity of commerce through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, this remains an area of significant concern.

Annual fraud losses on UK-issued cards 2008 to 2014

Annual fraud losses on UK-issued cards 2008 to 2014 (Source FFA UK)

Online banking fraud has also shown an eye-watering increase of 48%.  One of the key drivers of this is a criminal element adept at basic, low-tech social engineering, preying on unsuspecting, sometimes gullible and vulnerable consumers – making this type of fraud relatively difficult to defend against (especially with legacy fraud management products and techniques).  This is primarily due to the ability of the criminals to bypass the safeguards put in place by the banks and other financial institutions once they’ve stolen sensitive information and/or credentials from consumers via these social engineering techniques.

It is not difficult to see the common element between the highest impact fraud losses is the underlying online ecosystem.  This ecosystem remains popular with criminals due to its inherent detachment from face-to-face interactions (often perceived as more risky) and relatively easy attack scalability coupled with, perhaps most importantly, the relative ease of exploiting human fallibility, especially in technology-enabled channels.

Fortunately, there are a number of advanced tools and techniques that service providers in the online ecosystem can employ to detect, mitigate against and, ultimately, stop future attacks.  However, there are so many products and services available in the market place and this makes it extremely difficult to determine which products, services, tools and techniques are most appropriate and effective at addressing the prevailing threats.  Many of the products and services have been available for a long time and have failed to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of threats.  Technology and products that used to be good not that long ago are now less effective.

Annual online, telephone banking and cheque losses 2008 to 2014

Annual online, telephone banking and cheque losses 2008 to 2014 (Source FFA UK)

Furthermore, the P&L challenge to fraud managers is (rightly) changing dramatically.  Whereas fraud management was traditionally seen as a necessary cost of doing business, with very limited ability and budget to materially and positively impact an organisation’s fortunes, modern technologies and best practices enable dynamic fraud managers to positively contribute to the bottom line, but without adversely impacting the organisation’s fraud profile.  Done right, this means that an organisation is able to, for example, enable authorisation of more good sales volume and/or decrease the friction of consumer interactions – all without adversely impacting that organisation’s risk and fraud profile.

How can Accourt help?

  • As a vendor/product independent organisation, Accourt advises on and conducts many vendor and product evaluations, particularly in the payments fraud management ecosystem.
  • Accourt is at the forefront of the emerging and break-through fraud detection and management technologies across all geographies.  With a bedrock understanding of payments across the entire payments value chain, Accourt is consistently able to cut through to and isolate the core value and differentiators of market products, thereby objectively distilling market-leaders from the rest.
  • Accourt’s focus is always an integrated approach, most effectively combining the product and operational aspects of the undertaking to its clients’ benefit.
  • Recognising that many organisations cannot decommission existing products, Accourt has significant practical and pragmatic experience in how to engineer a complementary fit of newer products and technologies alongside the existing legacy.
  • The focus on omni-channel commerce and customer service has further challenged legacy products in the fraud management ecosystem.  Accourt is able to independently identify and advise on those products that have managed to overcome and address this challenge.
  • Coupled with industry-leading fraud management knowledge and experience, Accourt is steeped in deep operational knowledge and experience of chargeback optimisation and implementation.  An integrated approach to fraud and chargeback management generally returns greater operational and financial benefit than a ‘silo’ approach.

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