Survive Thanksgiving (and the Rest of the Winter) Like a Pilgrim

By Karisse Hendrick, Editor-at-Large,

Survive Thanksgiving (and the Rest of the Winter) Like a Pilgrim In 1621, America’s first European immigrants (the Pilgrims) celebrated their first Thanksgiving. The three-day feast was a Native American tradition held to express gratitude for a successful harvest. It was also a time to prepare for the harsh New England winter that was on the way. As the busiest shopping season of the year kicks off Thursday, many card-not-present retailers are engaging in their own preparations for the (hopefully!) crushing sales volume that marks the beginning of winter.

The more sales there are, however, the more fraud there will be. Fraudsters know their orders will be harder to spot due to the high transaction volume, but also because many good orders will have characteristics similar to fraudulent ones (high-dollar transactions, shipping to a different location, etc.). To stay competitive and retain a great customer experience in the face of huge volume, orders must be processed quickly and not held up for extensive fraud reviews.  As fraud managers, your life for the next month will be crazy. There will be little sleep and a lot to do. To help you cope, we polled some of the country’s largest e-retailers to find out how they ensure the survival of their sanity despite this insane season.

  • Know your hottest items targeted by fraudsters and keep in mind the fraud patterns you’ve been seeing the rest of the year.
  • For those using rule-based systems, have a rule set designed for holiday volumes. Auto-pass low-risk attributes. You have to be willing to increase your risk or the customer experience may be compromised.
  • Have daily “team huddles” in the morning to exchange information about current fraud trends and patterns. Set a timer to ensure that this doesn’t take too much time away from reviews.
  • Identify any repeated processes and try to automate. 
  • Review your rules often. If you see orders with similar characteristics being flagged for manual review, but approved more than 80 percent of the time, adjust your rules to accept them.
  • Because so many orders are shipped as gifts to a different address than the purchaser’s at this time of year, use social media to verify if the shipper and receiver know each other. 
  • Know your shipping cut-off dates and have a team celebration when you achieve them.
  • For merchants with physical stores: Have in-store pick-up orders worked the night before the stores open.
  • Try to be informed of sales before they happen. Estimate how this will impact order behavior and make sure you are staffed accordingly; communicate sales to your team.
  • Be in contact with the customer service manager and track calls from legitimate customers that had orders on hold for verification or canceled due to suspicion of fraud. If these calls increase, review and try to correct to lower insult rates.
  • If you offer digital gift cards, consider manually reviewing all due to the inherent risk. Some of the smarter fraudsters add a physical item to their cart to look more legitimate with billing/shipping being the same; don’t let them fool you.  The week before Christmas, gift card volume is insane, so be prepared! 
  • Staffing: Get approval for overtime. Set up a holiday weekend schedule. Try to make sure it is similar to your staffing volume on weekdays to reduce a Monday morning pile up.
  • Have plenty of free coffee and snacks on hand for your team. Sugar can be an effective way of increasing production for at least an hour.
  • Keep morale up by having theme days, potlucks, “Secret Santa” or by playing trivia games with your team during working hours. It’s a good distraction and can alleviate stress. Everyone likes prizes.
  • Have team contests for things like: most reviews, most caught fraud and lowest incoming chargeback volume (in Q1).
  • Have a few current magazines on hand for employees who usually don’t take breaks to have 15 minutes of time away from a computer screen.
  • Keep your home refrigerator stocked with the adult beverage of your choice.
  • You will take some losses.  Be realistic and know that the only way to achieve a 0 percent fraud rate is to have 0 percent in sales.
  • We hope that you have a great holiday season and that you find time to relax amidst the chaos!

Happy Thanksgiving from the team.