Moment: How a Branded Manufacturer Fought, and Won, Against Online Fraudsters
If there was ever a poster boy for online payment fraud it would be Marc Barros. In July of 2015, a year after Barros’ Seattle-based Moment started online sales of its popular wide-angle and telephoto lenses for mobile phone cameras, fraudsters launched a full-frontal assault.
“We basically got ransacked for 50K in about 60 days,” says Barros who thinks Moment was attractive to fraudsters because it was a single store with one, high price point. “We came to Signifyd because there’s really no good way for a single branded manufacturer to combat fraud. Without Guaranteed Fraud Protection, we would have had to shut down all international sales and sell only in the U.S. or figure out a different path.” Barros said thieves created as many as 15 phony sites that purported to sell his products. One was in the U.K, another he found on eBay. Legitimate customers ordered what they thought was a Moment, but instead their credit card information was stolen. Fraudsters then used the stolen credit card numbers to place legitimate orders on a real site.
“They basically take your information, and make their own URL for their site which is similar,” says Barros. A fraudster would then buy a lens with a stolen credit card number and resell that lens as well as the legitimate credit card information. The card could also be used to buy other products from other e-tailers. “You start getting a notification that says ‘there’s a fraud dispute.’ You go in and claim the fraud dispute and you start saying, ‘Wait a minute. In this week I’ve had four fraud disputes. I’ve never had four fraud disputes in a week! Like, what’s going on?’ They keep happening every week and you can’t stop it,” says Barros.
“They just hit us overnight”
Prior to the assault in July, 2015 Barros says Moment had never experienced more than a $500 dispute. “Almost zero.” As a result, the company paid little attention to potential fraud. But after the assault, he says he learned an expensive lesson: that he is exactly the type of online business a fraudster targets. With a consumer base made up mostly of millennials, aged 25 to 45 and tilting slightly toward men – Barros calls it “the Instagram community” – he says his product has global appeal. “A third of the business is international,” says Barros. And all their sales are retail to consumers. “This just hit us overnight.”
“Unless you’ve been in the retail game and built e-commerce you won’t even put two and two together. ‘Because maybe somebody stole a credit card once. But the fact that these guys organized themselves, targeted us, and did 25K in a month of fraud, is unheard of,” says Barros. “This is its own industry. They do this professionally.”
He says both fraudsters and the credit card companies know the retailer is short on the necessary information to combat the dispute “because what you’re asking for on an e-commerce site isn’t enough, so you lose every case.” And the police are of absolutely no help. “Unless someone has stolen over $100,000 you’re not going to get police help anywhere,” says Barros.
Partnering with Signifyd
These days he says his customers may get surprised or even insulted when there is a request for more information as a result of a Signifyd flag. “But we like the service. It’s just gotten easier and easier to use. It’s part of our work flow,” says Barros. “If there’s ever an issue we’re basically able to work with Signifyd and their tools automatically. They’re very fast, very responsive.” He estimates that without Signifyd verifying and guaranteeing all Moment’ sales in real-time the company would be losing $10,000 a month, or up to 5% of its monthly sales. “We love the service. It really saves us money. We love how they built great software so that it’s automatic and not all manual. The service level’s been fantastic. Very responsive.”
“It has significantly improved our operations,” he says, adding that filling orders has gotten faster. “You don’t have people having to sit there and scan every order.”
“If you sell your product outside the U.S. you have to think globally, says Barros. “You think, ‘oh, yeah, no big deal for me to ship to those countries.’ But early on you’ve got to think about fraud as one aspect of that experience.”
With Signifyd taking care of his fraud problem, Barros says he can now focus on his more immediate challenge, building his customer base. “What we found is that billions of people are now using their phone as a camera. They’re more into taking pictures and photography than ever before. And they’re always looking for great tools that make their phone a better camera,” he says.
In addition to lenses the company also sells cases, apps, and accessories. “We started this business because we love photography. We love the essence of what a picture means. We love the emotion around it. We found that we were using our phones more and more and carrying our real cameras less and less – and we really missed those elements of our traditional cameras on our phones.”