“It Never Ever Gets Boring in this Industry”: Q&A with Danièle Thillmann of Green Man Gaming
By Sarah Beldo /
6 Jun 2016
Sift Science is lucky to work with talented fraud and risk professionals every day. Today we have an interview with Danièle Thillmann, SVP of Fraud and Customer Service at Green Man Gaming, a UK-based video game technology company. Danièle is a seasoned veteran with almost two decades of experience fighting fraud, so we’re glad to share her take on what she loves about her job and where she sees fraud going next.
Q: How did you get into the fraud and risk space?
Much like most of the people I have spoken to about this very question, I never intended to work in fraud or payments. It just happened! I have been working in e-commerce in different industries for nearly 17 years, and I started out at Amazon.com in 1999. I worked in customer service for a few months when a position in the transaction risk management team became available, and my manager encouraged me to apply. I probably would never have considered this role if it weren’t for them – I owe them a big thanks!
Having been on the “customer is king” side of the business for a while, it was a bit of a shock to be closing down accounts. However, I quickly discovered how rewarding it is to protect the business you care about from fraudsters and to prevent financial losses on a daily basis. I ended up staying with Amazon for over seven years, most of it in transaction risk management, and I’ve been in the industry ever since.
My position with Amazon in particular, and every other role I’ve held since then, taught me all the tricks of the trade and the way fraudsters operate. It’s been super exciting and you never stop learning. I’ve learned how important it is to have dedicated fraud prevention experts in any e-commerce business and how they, combined with the right technology for your business, are vital to protect your customers, your reputation, and your cash.
Q: What are the most common misconceptions about your job?
Most of my peers in the e-commerce, gambling, and gaming world know very well what the job of a risk manager entails. When I talk to friends and family or colleagues in other areas of the business, they often don’t have a good understanding of my role. I think a lot of people who don’t work in e-commerce never think twice about payment fraud – at least not until their own card details get stolen.
There can be a perception that the risk team is continually preventing sales when in reality, they are preventing fraud and enabling sales. If you use your fraud and payments tools smartly, you can fine-tune your rejected orders as much as possible, and auto-accept a lot of genuine orders. Most fraud tools should assist you with accepting a maximum of good orders as well as reject the bad ones.
Q: How do the industries you’ve worked in (gaming, gambling, retail) differ in terms of fraud and risk?
In retail, most merchants have the luxury of holding their goods, at least for a few hours, while reviewing suspicious orders. In gambling and gaming, or any other digital goods market, it’s nearly impossible to do that without inconveniencing at least some of your legitimate users. This makes the fraud prevention job a little more intense (read: exciting!). Any fraud controls have to be spot on, because once an order is approved, the product is gone in an instant.
The gambling industry is extremely attractive for fraudsters, as there is money to be had right away. They deposit funds with stolen payment methods, play poker (or other games where you can intentionally lose to someone) and try to cash out the funds.
There is often a lot more manpower required to take care of fraud prevention in this industry. A human eye is still required in order to detect cheating players. Your tools can assist you a lot, of course, with device fingerprinting technology and behavioral analytics. However, there are some red flags that are best detected by a fraud specialist and poker expert, which a lot of the agents who work in this industry are.
Q: What has surprised you about your job?
Gaming is massive. I am not a big gamer myself, so I had little awareness of how vast this industry actually is when I started working at Green Man Gaming in January 2013. This quickly became real, when I familiarized myself with the gaming world. Consider these numbers from Ukie, which monitors the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry:
- The UK was estimated to be the 6th largest video game market in 2015 in terms of consumer revenue, after China, USA, Japan, South Korea, and Germany. The UK is forecast to retain its 6th place up to at least 2018.
- The UK games industry was worth nearly £4.2bn in consumer spend in 2015, up 7.4% from 2014.
And furthermore, an incredible 20 million people in the 6-64 age range play games in the UK, or 42% of the population, according to GameTrack. On average, the 11-64 year old player population spends 8.9 hours per week on games. Mind-boggling figures!
Q: What excites you most about your job?
So many things excite me about my job, it is difficult to pick just one! No matter which business I have been a part of, one thing has been consistent throughout my career: The satisfaction you feel when you do a good job in fraud prevention is immense. It’s very rewarding to know that you are saving your business hard cash, every single day.
In addition, I love working with new technology and I am a big fan of innovation in fraud prevention. Fraudsters get smarter all the time and merchants need to do the same in order to continue to protect themselves. Relying on the same rules and systems you’ve had since launch and expecting fraud to stay under control is foolish. Fraudsters always figure out new ways of getting around your barriers, and I love that challenge. It never ever gets boring in this industry.
Q: What are the biggest trends that will have an influence on fraud and payments in the next 5 years?
I certainly have witnessed a shift from the more traditional rules-based fraud prevention tools to behavioral analytics and machine learning in recent years. This technology is still developing and improving, but the benefits are already apparent to those of us who are using it. I completely believe this technology is here to stay and will widely become part of many merchant’s fraud prevention infrastructure.
If only I could predict actual fraud trends! I do see fraudsters becoming extremely good at presenting what we like to call “clean fraud.” This is fraud that looks JUST like your legitimate customers. All the details on the order and account match, they cover all their bases from true IP address to screen resolution, browser language and browsing time, nothing gives away that the order is bad. This is no doubt due to the increase in data breaches we’ve seen in recent years, and the large amount of personal data that is now available on the black market for fraudsters to use. Phishing also continues to prove successful for fraudsters and provide them with passwords and account details, gaining access to people’s email inboxes and a whole host of other websites and bank accounts. So long as we have phishing and data breaches, “clean” fraud will be on the rise and present a challenge for many merchants.
In the payments world, there is a lot of focus on the blockchain, which is the underlying technology on which bitcoin is based. The blockchain’s vast distributed ledger has emerged as a vehicle for all kinds of financial assets to be moved and stored securely and privately (money, contracts, bonds, equities, etc). This has become a point of interest for financial services firms, as it is expected to hold the answer to many payments infrastructure related problems. The blockchain continues to be an evolving and exciting topic, likely to heavily disrupt the payments industry.
A big thank you to Danièle for sharing her thoughts with us!