3 Fraud Lessons Learned from Star Wars
By Michelle Arguelles /
15 Dec 2015
Hello in internet land! If you got that reference (it’s shown on the VHS tapes of the original series), then you’re probably just as much of a Star Wars fan as I am. And if you’re that much of a fan, you’re probably cautiously optimistic about what’s to come in the next installment, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, released on December 18.
And if you’re a major fan who also happens to spend her day helping to combat online fraud (like me!), you may also see some interesting parallels between the Star Wars universe and the types of online bad behavior so many websites face today.
It may have taken place a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but fraud was an existential problem in both the Old Republic and the Galactic Empire, for both the Jedi and the Sith, and for both the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. At Sift Science, we are restoring balance to the internet by taking on fraudsters, scammers, and spammers from every edge of the galaxy. (OK, for now, just ones from Earth…but we have big plans.)
Here are some fraud lessons learned from the Star Wars universe:
These ARE the Droids you’re looking for
A lot of our customers use Sift Science to weed out fake accounts, created by fraudsters who are out to spam or scam. Sound familiar? There are a number of examples in both the original Star Wars series and the prequels of people impersonating others to achieve certain ends. To start, there’s Obi Wan using Jedi trickery to convince Stormtroopers to let R2 and C3PO go. (An ancient type of social engineering?)
But – the Force aside – we also see Han Solo and Luke Skywalker disguising themselves as Stormtroopers, Leia Organa infiltrating Jabba’s lair to save Han, and Natalie Portman using Keira Knightley as a decoy for one reason or another. That’s a lot of fakery! And while our heroes managed to fool the villains, you were probably able to spot them through their facades, right?
Lesson #1: The clues that help you distinguish fake people from real ones are often subtle, and you may need some help to identify them.
It’s a trap!
For online businesses, fraudulent content can run the gamut from monstrous to mundane – bad job postings, fake profiles, phishing scams, or other types of malicious content that can ruin the reputation of the site and drive legitimate users away.
And guess what? The Star Wars universe is not immune to fake content either. When the Empire made the decision to build Death Star #2 (after losing an estimated $8.1 quadrillion investment in the original Death Star when it was destroyed by a Tatooinian, womp rat-bullseyeing moisture farmer), they tried to make sure history wouldn’t repeat itself. (Despite the fact that building another Death Star is repeating themselves…) As such, they planted plans with the Rebels to lure them into a trap. Yes, fake plans were seeded with the Rebel forces, changing the way that the Rebels planned and perceived their enemy… which ultimately led them right into a trap set by the Empire.
Lesson #2: To protect your users and maintain their trust in you, you’ll need a good solution in place. Which leads to…
Beware of dealing in absolutes
In Episode III, Obi Wan (contradicting himself a bit) tells Anakin Skywalker that “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” Similarly, a rules-based approach to combating fraud takes actions based on black-and-white decisions about what type of behavior is “good” or “bad.”
Unlike the traditional rules-based systems, the Sith – and apparently old Ben Kenobi – machine learning fraud solutions take an agnostic approach to fraud. For example, Sift Science looks at all the data you send us and weighs each factor separately to give you the most accurate fraud prediction possible. And our Console will always tell you the odds – even if you never want us to.
Lesson #3: Hokey superstitions and ancient weapons are no match for a machine learning system at your side
The Force is strong with this one
One of Sift Science’s strengths is weeding out fake accounts and spammy content on your site. Maybe they’re bots or maybe they’re bad users trying to ruin the vibe of your online Cantina. Either way, Sift looks through thousands of data points like email address and their user behavior to determine who should stay and who should go. You can even send us custom data to capture things like Stormtrooper height, which may be an indicator of fraud specific to your business.
Speed is the name of the game with fraudsters and you will want to shoot first. Sift learns in real-time which means you can get ahead of the fraudsters and/or Rodian bounty hunters in less than twelve parsecs and catch them right at sign-up.
Whether you’re a small storefront in Mos Eisley or a galaxy-class hotel in Cloud City, Sift Science can work for you! Start your free trial, and we’re confident that at the end you will say, “For my ally is Sift Science, and a powerful ally it is.”