When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Fraud Fighter


By Catherine Tong, General Manager - Accertify EMEA

Not words you would expect to hear from a schoolchild.  Certainly not something I or any of my classmates would have uttered back in the day, but that is more due to the fact that the cyberworld was not open to the masses then and so we were more likely to aspire to being in the police, walking the streets dealing with criminals face-to-face.

So how do people get drawn into the world of cybercrime and online fraud?  I have yet to find someone where it has been a planned career path, but for many of us, once we find the intriguing world, it has us hooked.  Is it the combination of understanding human behaviour through data analysis?  Or developing skills as diverse as project management to manage people and processes to stay on top of the latest trends to the persistence needed to ultimately detect and prevent fraud getting out of control?

Whichever it is that takes your fancy, it is one driver of why people across the industry come from such a diverse background.  And something I personally love about the industry, the company I work for and the customers we work with.  Bringing these together is what brings the best results.

But are people even needed in this growing industry?

It is all well and good having the tools to do the job, but if you don’t have someone who knows how to use them, or get the best out of them, then you are missing a trick.  Getting the right tools – for the right price – is one thing, but given it is fundamentally a human behaviour you are trying to detect (automated or an actual human conducting the crime), it is the people who can make the biggest difference.  Skills can be as diverse as investigators getting into the detail of reviewing transactions; finance specialists managing operational costs; commercial teams trying to maximise their sales or getting into the mind of the bad guy, defining your company risk profile and mitigation strategy.  They can all be both fascinating and frustrating.

Whether this is your own employees, or leveraging the power of the network, people matter and full automation will never be as effective.  It is also the human touch which allows many merchants to extend the original scope of their fraud worlds to continue to support their business growth, but also being able to effectively manage risk.

An example I have seen of this is where within the first week of a merchant using their new fraud solution, the tool enabled the team to detect policy abuse in their loyalty program which was costing them dearly.  This was the first step in their evolution to open their eyes to wider opportunities to improve across their business.  A tool on its own would never detect this new pattern.

In looking for new tools, many companies have evolved from a spreadsheet to simplistic rules administered by their technology team to more advanced and user-friendly rules management or machine learning.  As the fraud fighters evolve, so do the fraudsters, trying to stay one step ahead.

Or is that one step back?  Although in many regions of the world traditional online payment fraud is on the increase*, so are other types of fraud.  In their evolution, fraudsters are stepping backwards in the customer journey to be able to satisfy their needs.  For a fraud team, this requires a holistic view of how their customers interact with their company and where they may be able to take advantage.  One of the greatest qualities of any fraud expert is inquisitiveness and the drive to get to the root cause of what they are observing.

Whilst today’s fraud-fighters may not have planned to earn their living in a cyberworld, but today’s children might, potentially fueled by recent proposed initiatives of cyber education. Our continued drive for automation certainly has its benefits, but the best results come from people continually observing and tweaking.  In the fraud world, this is likely to mean the best cybercrime detectors have a natural nosiness to find out why something has happened, love analysing data and want to broaden their skillset and have the satisfaction of having caught the bad guy, and can really can make a difference by using the right technology.