How Trust and Safety Teams Can Prepare for an Unpredictable Holiday Season

How Trust and Safety Teams Can Prepare for an Unpredictable Holiday Season

November 19, 2020

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Fraud prevention experts rely on patterns. But months full of unknowns have thrown a sizable wrench in predictability, leaving trust and safety teams to face changing risks and erratic consumer behaviors.

With most of this year’s holiday shopping surge happening online, and starting earlier than usual, fraudsters are banking on merchant risk teams not knowing what to expect. Here’s how to prepare for a season that’s sure to be as unique as it is unpredictable.

Stay flexible, stay agile

Total, uninterrupted availability has never been a realistic expectation during the holidays, and in the face of Covid-19, may now be an impossible one. On top of the annual time off people are expected to take, this year includes children at home, virtual schooling, personal appointments at inconvenient times due to shelter-in-place restrictions, and the overall slowing down of society as we adjust to life in a pandemic.

Many fraud prevention teams have also been scaled back this year and are struggling to get more done with fewer resources. But during the holidays, skeleton crews will become a reality as people go on vacation—and that’s why it’s so important to make connectivity and productivity as consistent and constant as possible. Building flexibility into the way a team works starts with cross-training, in order to suss out deficiencies and ensure that everyone is prepared to step up and execute on goals. If you’re able to collaborate with other teams during the holiday rush, such as customer success or finance, you can leverage their training for high-value workflows to keep things running swiftly and smoothly.

Consider what types of support your risk team needs right now. Is there anything preventing them from being successful while remote? While budgets are currently a concern for most businesses, supporting remote trust and safety teams that are heavily impacted by pandemic-induced churn and chargebacks is a worthwhile short-term investment. To offset any worries about cost, leaders should consider chargeback dollars saved as a counterbalance for short-term investments like properly outfitting home offices, training the whole team on relevant tasks and processes, or adopting more sophisticated fraud-fighting tools and platforms.

Adjust for the abnormal and adopt automation

While companies typically expect increased traffic and transactions in Q4, it will be no shock if those volumes are incredibly volatile this year. The way consumers shop has changed a great deal since January 2020—in-app purchases, contactless payments, buy online/pickup in-store (BOPIS), and no-contact deliveries are the hallmarks of a world on lockdown.

On the surface, this means fraudsters are facing fewer points of friction, like having to provide identification or signatures—security measures that some organizations are forgoing in order to comply with social distancing. And, with recent Sift research showing a shocking 282 percent surge in YoY account takeover fraud (ATO) between 2019-2020, merchants (and their risk teams) must be especially wary of digital criminals who are ready to exploit these major shifts in consumer buying behavior.

Behind the scenes, a temperamental economy—coupled with the significant increases in online orders that are guaranteed during this time of year—will result in the need for far more manual verifications and assessments, but with much less time, and possibly fewer trust and safety analysts, to review them. But technologies built with real-time machine learning (ML) can help your risk teams be more effective, both now and in the future, by taking a lot of that manual work out of the equation and continually enhancing accuracy and efficiency. And for companies struggling under the weight of forced change and uncertain horizons, this kind of automation is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

See how trust and safety experts expect Covid-19 to impact holiday fraud rates and transaction volumes by watching our webinar, Fraud and Retail E-commerce: Prepping Trust and Safety Teams for an Unpredictable Holiday Season.

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