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Christmas Wish

By Adrian Lane

When there is good news in holiday retail, we usually hear. In this economic climate, it’s headline news. When there is bad news, we don’t hear much. The news from PayPal, according to PC Magazine’s article on Record Breaking Black Friday, was that total transactions were way up – in some cases by 20%. What they are not disclosing is the total dollar volume. In fact, most of the quotes I saw from individual retailers are along the lines of “We did well”, but we don’t know how low their expectations were, and I have yet to see hard sales numbers. Which is annoying because they have the data, so I typically assume the worst.

As I was reading the reports I started to wonder what the fraud rates were this year. I am willing to bet the fraud curve would see higher growth than total online sales. If we see a 10-20% uptick in online transactions, did we see a 20-30% increase in fraud? If mobile transactions – the new greenfield for attackers – are up 140%, did we see exploitation of this new medium? It dawned on me that, with all of this commerce tracked and analyzed so closely, most fraud data should be available immediately, and fraud rates should be confirmed within a week or two. If retailers share holiday sales numbers with analysts, why not the fraud data?

I know most credit card processing houses and companies like First Data have reasonably sophisticated fraud detection tools, and I am told that PayPal and eBay have incredibly advanced analysis capabilities. I would love to see even a generic breakdown of rates of ecommerce fraud, credit card fraud and fraud rates by location. I don’t need specifics, but trends would be nice – something like the a percentage they were certain was fraud, what percentage was suspect, and what sort of after-the-fact complaints are coming in. It’s a big part of the payment processors’ business, so I know they are watching closely and tracking the activity. Come on, all I want for Christmas is a little forensics! It’s the season of sharing. I know they have the data, but I guess I should not hold my breath in anticipation.

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