Why Every Email Address Tells a Story (and How to Use It)

By Amador Testa February 02, 2017

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The biggest challenge facing companies isn’t necessarily online fraud. Instead, it’s maintaining the delicate balance between rejecting fraudsters and approving trustworthy customers.

How long have you had your email address?

If you’re like most people, quite some time. According to DMA Insight’s Consumer Email Tracking Study, 91% of email users have the same email address for at least three years, and 51% of email users have the same email address for over 10 years.

For many transactions, whether B2B or B2C, email is the preferred medium for customers. It’s an instant form of communication that also offers compartmentalization. People are perfectly fine with receiving email statements from their bank. But nobody wants to get that sort of information via text message. They want it in their email inbox.

Here’s the problem: the email address is also highly under-utilized by many companies as a key data point in an overall risk assessment strategy.

Why the email address for fraud risk assessment?

Sure, there are other methods to verify activity, such as device ID or a phone number. But, if your company operates globally, these methods have limitations.

Unlike an address, driver’s license or even phone number, the email address works globally. It makes sense: is your phone number global? No, there are different carriers in different countries. How about device ID? Device changes are far more frequent than email address changes, so this approach is not really scalable.

Every time an email address is used, it leaves traces. Over a period of time, those traces add up to a multi-layered story. This story can be examined to assess the risk present in a transaction. This approach offers much less friction than other methods (such as manual review) of determining whether a transaction is a fraud, or legitimate.

In conclusion

The biggest challenge facing companies isn’t necessarily online fraud. Instead, it’s maintaining the delicate balance between rejecting fraudsters and approving trustworthy customers. A lot of revenue hangs in the balance.

When you stop a fraudster, that’s a one-time loss. But every time you deny a perfect customer, or send them to manual review, you risk losing lifetime value.

Combine this reality with the intelligence associated with an email address over time, and it becomes clear why the email address is a critical piece of data in the fight against fraud.

About the Author

Amador is an industry expert in online fraud, identity theft and cybercrime. He was the head of fraud for card acquisitions at American Express and later led global fraud prevention divisions at Citigroup. Amador enjoys playing tennis, running marathons and traveling with his family.