What is friendly fraud?
One of the biggest challenges facing online (card not present) merchants is "Friendly Fraud". What do we mean by friendly fraud? The standard definition for friendly fraud is when a customer uses a credit card to make a purchase, and then disputes the charge with their credit card company once the item(s) are received. Consumers use friendly fraud to obtain item(s) for free. Friendly fraud can be broken into two categories; deliberate and accidental. Deliberate friendly fraud would fall under the standard definition of friendly fraud. Where accidental friendly fraud can occur when a customer does not realize what a charge is for.
All types of e-commerce companies have dealt with friendly fraud at one time or another. Within the past few years there has been an increase in deliberate friendly fraud. There are a few factors that have contributed to the rise in deliberate friendly fraud; the shape of the economy worldwide, individual financial situations, and consumer’s knowledge of how to take advantage of the banking system. Unfortunately, the economy can impact a person’s financial stability which can cause this type of deliberate fraud. What someone can afford today, they may not be able to afford tomorrow. This can lead them to drastic measures to hold on to any funds they have.
Another type of friendly fraud are fraudsters that regularly manipulate the system to get their products for free. Since these fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to use the system to their advantage, there is no real way to avoid this type of friendly fraud from happening. The only thing that can be done is to try to protect your business as much as possible.
Accidental friendly fraud is when the consumer mistakenly disputes a charge and does not take the incentive to rectify the situation. In many cases it can be helpful to contact the customer directly to give them additional information about the charge and the product or service that was purchased. Accidental friendly fraud can be easily fixed. Once the consumer realizes they made the mistake, they remedy the situation. The following suggestion may help to avoid this type of friendly fraud. If your business uses a reseller, a payment processor, or any type of third party billing service; such as 2Checkout, PayPal, Clickbank, WorldPay, or Google; it is very important that your customers are aware of this. Placing this company’s information on your website and on your receipts will help customers recognize the charge on their billing statement. An additional feature available to 2Checkout suppliers is the use of a “soft descriptor.” Each supplier can enter their own “soft descriptor” to be included within the description sent to the credit card companies when a credit card is billed.
With all of this in mind, before you send a product or provide a service to a customer, make sure you know the customer. If you do not know them or are skeptical, use the tools on the internet or any other tools made available to you in order to screen the customer. You may request that the customer fax information to you such as their photo ID or a utility bill. Additionally, you may contact the Fraud Department to request that 2Checkout require additional documentation from the customer before providing the item(s) ordered.
These preventative methods may lower the chance of receiving a fraud related chargeback. However, even with doing all of this, there is really no way to predict cases of friendly fraud. It is a good idea to prepare your business for these special cases. The best way to prepare is to keep all documentation about the customer, the product/service that was provided, and any contact you have had with the customer; as these may be needed to challenge a chargeback. Some examples of documentation you should retain are:
- Proof of Successful Download
- Proof of Product Usage (Login, IP, etc.)
- Signed Terms Of Service/Contract
- Signed Proof of Delivery/Delivery Confirmation
- Tracking Pictures of Shipped Products
- Detailed Description of Product
Since there is no real way to stop this type of fraud from happening, a good business practice is allocating funds to offset any possible losses due to all types of friendly fraud. This can help ensure your business continues to grow while you are trying to recoup the loss of funds from the chargeback. All online companies spend time and money looking for fraud, but fewer companies spend enough time gathering the information required to fight friendly fraud.