Talking Fraud Trends and a Trust and Safety Mindset with Brittany Allen, Trust and Safety Architect
By Angela Marrujo /
17 Mar 2020
Brittany Allen is the third addition to our team of Trust and Safety Architects here at Sift, and she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience from ten years spent on the frontlines of fighting fraud with Etsy, Airbnb, 1stdibs, and letgo. We sat down with her to learn about her journey through Trust and Safety, some of today’s greatest challenges to the industry, and the importance of adopting a Trust and Safety mindset for your business.
How did you get into the Trust and Safety space?
Nobody goes to school for Trust and Safety; you find it and realize it’s your passion. I used to be a high school history teacher, but was affected by layoffs in 2009. I decided on a whim to move from North Carolina to New York City and found a Trust and Safety position with Etsy. Even though I was no longer teaching history, I realized that Trust and Safety took advantage of my skills in research, sussing out the reliability of a source, and determining whether someone was telling the truth – it just sort of clicked. And I still get to use my teaching skills through training sessions and presentations.
Before working with Etsy, I had no idea that fraud was out there; in those early days in 2010, we were uncovering cases of fraud that are common now, but were new and unknown types of fraud back then. It’s amazing how much things have changed in that time.
What made you want to join the team here at Sift?
This is a unique experience – I can’t think of other vendors that have this focus on bringing in merchants with experience and using them as an educational tool both within the company and outside of it. I already knew Trust and Safety Architects Kevin Lee and Jeff Sakasegawa from conferences we attended. Most recently, Kevin spoke to me after one of my presentations and I was on a panel with Jeff, so when I became aware of the opportunity to join their team I wanted to go for it.
What are you looking forward to most in this new role at Sift?
I’m looking forward to an increased ability to effect more change, getting out there and doing more conferences than I could as a merchant, learning about new types of fraud, and getting glimpses into industries I’m not as familiar with. I’m very excited to be able to see the types of fraud encountered by different merchants. I spent ten years with marketplaces and have a very good grasp on the fraud they experience, but I haven’t worked in the other industries that Sift’s customers work in. I’d have to spend another ten years working with other companies to get the knowledge I’ll gain as a Trust and Safety Architect. I’m always wanting to learn, and in Trust and Safety there’s always some new problem to solve.
Why do you think a Trust and Safety mindset is important for companies to adopt?
Coming from a merchant’s perspective, Trust and Safety gets put by the wayside at some companies because they think it’s revenue-stopping or that it isn’t their problem. One of the most upsetting sentences that’s ever been said to me was by a person who managed a Trust and Safety team, but didn’t have a Trust and Safety mindset or experience: “Fraud just takes care of itself.” The team was so good at preventing fraud that their company wasn’t seeing significant losses, but this person didn’t understand what the Trust and Safety team did or the benefit of having one, and so they didn’t think the company needed to invest in it.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are forces out there that will be tempted to take advantage of loopholes in the system; if you’re not attempting to protect your business, you’ll be the target because fraudsters will go after the slowest antelope in the herd, so to speak. If you don’t have a Trust and Safety mindset, you’re at the back of the pack.
What are some of the most challenging abuses/fraud types that you’ve come across?
One unique type of fraud I saw as a merchant resulted in merchants becoming collateral damage, as they weren’t the primary targets of this particular fraud scheme. A fraud ring was operating as a fake concierge/personal shopper business, and hired employees that would then make purchases of very low risk items at reasonable values on behalf of “clients.” We were approving most of the orders, but they all came back as fraudulent and resulted in chargebacks.
We got in touch with the people who placed the orders, who thought they were making orders on behalf of the business’s customers. That’s when we learned that the real scam was being perpetrated on those individuals; the employees’ identities were being stolen by the fake concierge service via the personal information they provided in their job application (full names and addresses, social security numbers, banking information, scanned copy of their ID, etc.). This is an increasingly common scheme that impacts merchants, and it targets students looking for a side job, who tend to fill these roles.
Which current fraud trends do you recommend that Trust and Safety professionals keep an especially close eye on?
The obvious answer is – and has been for a few years – account takeover (ATO). There are a lot of possibilities and opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of credentials that are available on the Dark Web or being shared in a Facebook group, to use those credentials to wipe out loyalty points, money on a credit card, or value in accounts. This opportunity grows every time there’s a breach.
Consumer behavior hasn’t gotten to the point where they’re consistently responding in ways like focusing on their security and using a password manager. Businesses need to focus not only on identifying and preventing ATO, but on considering the aftermath of and recovering from ATO. It’s one thing to restore someone’s account or their loyalty points, but how are businesses going to regain the trust of their customers, not lose them for life, and prevent brand damage? Most don’t have plans for that.
If you’re ready to start your business’s Digital Trust & Safety transformation, take our Digital Trust & Safety Assessment and receive custom recommendations for technology, organizational structure, and processes, right from our team of Trust and Safety Architects.
Angela Marrujo, Content Marketing Manager at Sift, is a lifelong gamer with a deep love for Nintendo, in particular. Illustration and music are her other passions. Angela is a San Francisco State University alumna and, prior to Sift, worked in PR and Marketing in the video game industry.