Planning for the Q4 Holiday Fraud Rush
By Jeff Sakasegawa /
3 Oct 2018
You may have felt a chill in the air when September rolled around, but it wasn’t just the weather. For e-commerce businesses, the holiday madness is coming, and with it…the fraud rush. Sound familiar? I’ve totally been there, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned. In my 10+ years working on the fraud front lines, I’ve picked up some insights (and battle scars) to help you survive and thrive this Q4. Gather around the fireplace to hear Jeff’s tales of holiday seasons past…
How intense can it get?
Whether you’re new to the holiday fraud rush or you’re tackling it for the first time, you might be asking yourself just how intense it can get. The short answer is: pretty intense
Here’s the longer answer. In Q4, you should expect to see changes in the amount and types of fraud you’ll encounter. Ecommerce fraud shot up by around 22% during the 2017 holiday season.
And it’s not just credit card fraud. As frantic holiday shoppers — and fraudsters masquerading as frantic holiday shoppers — descend on your site, you’ll start to see more promo abuse, coupon fraud, and email tumbling.
Some shoppers enter multiple email addresses to redeem a promo code. And fraudsters may take advantage of the increased volume on your site to test stolen credit cards, thinking they can slip under the radar.
You also might see an increase in friendly fraud chargebacks. During Q4, FedEx and other shipping companies like to set customers’ expectations low, letting them know that their items may arrive late or get lost. Friendly fraudsters will take advantage of that messaging to say that they never received their item and file a chargeback.
Tip #1: Arm yourself with information.
To get an idea of what to expect in Q4, it helps to look at trends from previous years. Your product team or finance team will probably have a forecast for fraud and order volumes based on previous years’ data. Your cross-functional partners can also let you know what launches are coming down the pipeline so you’re prepared to respond to changes in customer behavior. Partner with product or engineering teams to stress test your rules or machine learning systems by running simulations, so you know whether they’re prepared for the additional volume.
Above all, it’s vital to the stage with your team. Let them know upfront that this time of year is going to be stressful. Your team is going to have to step up to the plate to ensure your customers are delighted throughout the holidays. They should take pride in that. Rally the troops!
Tip #2: Figure out your staffing and resources early.
Okay, now that you’ve got your data, it’s time to figure out how to allocate resources. For a fraud manager, that means figuring out how many review you have to get through and how many people you have to do it. How do you staff for an unpredictable and rising tide?
The trick is to start planning as early as possible. You know how many fraud analysts you have on a given week, but many of them will want to travel for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. Take stock of which fraud analysts want to take time off, and when: ask them to rank their preferences for each holiday that falls in Q4. Once that’s done, you can start figuring out whether you’ll need to bring in contractors to help pick up the slack.
Get buy-in for extra staff from your boss early by quantifying the potential impact of fraud in Q4. Present her with the numbers, and let her know how many additional people you’ll need to hire to keep your fraud volume down.
Leave yourself time to train your contractors so they’re equipped to deal with the fraud rush. You might consider letting the contractors handle more “lightweight” functions like customer service, or having them work in the lower band of riskiness to minimize impact. Let your more seasoned fraud analysts handle more high-risk transactions. You can also cross-train your customer support team to handle certain transactions in the lower band of riskiness.
And make sure you’re documenting everything thoroughly. Have a playbook that you can use to train new employees and contractors, increase consistency in reviews, and set expectations for the team. Show your team how to keep detailed records for each transaction. For example, to fight chargebacks, you’ll need to have tracking information each time you ship an item, as well as a clear line of written communication between you and the customer.
Tip #3: Empathy is key.
The holidays tend to bring out the best and worst in us. This is a touchy time, to say the least. Keep up your employees’ morale by recognizing their efforts, finding ways to highlight good work that’s been done that day or that week. Consider letting your employees work from home, especially if they’re working overtime. That will motivate them to give 110%. And once the holiday rush dies down, it can’t hurt to hold a party or event to celebrate their hard work.
Be strong and sensitive with your customers, too. Your fraud analysts will have to deal with some nasty fraudsters during Q4, but they’ll also deal with ordinary, stressed-out shoppers. As hard as it might be, channel some holiday spirit and show them a little kindness. It will go a long, long way.