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De-frauding fraudsters over the phone

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Fraud has become a full-time profession for syndicates around the world and right here in the US. While today’s technology makes fraudsters almost invisible there are still times when fraudsters need to deal with merchants over the phone. For example, to ensure quicker delivery and to entice merchants with lucrative shipping fees, fraudsters will often order items with next day delivery. However, if there are issues with the order the fraudster may be notified or called. Confident fraudsters welcome such calls because they know most merchants can be fooled over the phone with just a few simple confirmations or a short conversation.

Despite their confidence most fraudsters don’t place orders by phone unless they’re convinced it’s a surefire method for getting orders accepted easily or they have no other option. Order verification by phone can be a time-consuming activity and while it allows merchants to better understand their customers and deliver personalized customer service, interactions over the phone are an excellent way to recognize fraudsters. Here are a few tricks of the trade that work well for this purpose:

Ask the buyer to confirm the wrong address or confirm a mistake about their location

One sure way of knowing you’re dealing with a fraudster is to have them confirm a glaring mistake in the order’s details or to confirm a lie.

Ask for the wrong address

For example, if the billing address for your suspected order is ‘123 Palm Drive” ask the buyer if they can confirm the address “for 123 Tree Drive or 126 Palm Drive”. A genuine buyer would be quick to correct you as they know their address and have likely had to repeat it hundreds of times. However, fraudsters don’t have time to remember the billing addresses for every order and credit card they’re using at any given time. Thus, they’re inclined to agree with the information you’re providing as they know they entered it correctly on your site.

Refer to the wrong landmark

Another effective tactic is something we call “landmarking”. Assuming your buyer has confirmed the correct address (correcting your mistake) feel free to ask them if that address is near the wrong landmark. For example, a quick Google Maps search will tell you what major landmarks or geographic features are near the address you’re confirming. Anyone familiar with the address should be able to correct you when you ask them to confirm if the house or apartment is next to a landmark on the other side of town, or if you get the name of the lake nearby wrong.

Confirm incorrect information about the order

Fraudsters aren’t typically buying things for themselves, they’re targeting high value merchandise they can resell quickly on eBay or other marketplaces at a discount to generate cash. So while real buyers have likely spent a fair amount of time researching and selecting a product fraudsters aren’t nearly as familiar with what they’re attempting to buy. Ask the buyer to confirm they’ve ordered the purple sweater when you know they’ve ordered the red one, or describe the product that is like the one they’ve ordered, but not the exact item they ordered. Real customers will have no problem correcting your erroneous order details and you can assure them it was a mistake on your part and the order was entered correctly and will ship as ordered.

Challenge the person on the phone vs the buyer on your order

Fraudsters largely operate from scripts but can also be excellent liars. So they’re willing to improvise but not for long. Fraudsters have a lot of data available to them but what they don’t have in abundance is time. So as you press for details about the order placed by “Michael Smith” in Miami for a $3,500 luxury watch listen carefully for accents/pronunciation that doesn’t sound like a “Michael” from Miami. Foreign fraudsters will slip on certain words when they’re being pushed and the longer you stay on the call the more they’ll want it to end. You can extend your call with polite small talk to break up your questions, just in case you’re speaking with a real customer that you don’t want to offend with an interrogation. Questions and comments about recent sports or news events are generally safe ways to determine if the buyer you’re speaking to actually lives near where they’ve indicated in their order.

A few extra seconds or even a few minutes can often make the difference when dealing with fraudsters over the phone. Take the time to do your research and when in doubt, call. Don’t hesitate to call your buyer as almost every normal person would understand why you’re calling and fraudsters may give you what you need to decline the order. Just do your best to make the call worthwhile and conclusive. Don’t waste your time calling buyers to confirm details that require no prior or additional knowledge as you’ll simply be repeating information they already have.

Sourabh Kothari

Sourabh Kothari

Sourabh is the former Director of Merchant Advocacy at Signifyd, where he brought over 18 years of experience defining, designing and delivering content through stories, events and video.