Fraud's new normal: helping your Trust & Safety team adjust to a virtual business

Wednesday 1 April 2020 10:27 CET | Editor: Mirela Ciobanu | Interview

During the coronavirus outbreak, Brittany Allen from Sift teaches us how fraud teams can best adapt to working remotely, while also combatting more and different types of fraud

No one can deny that now businesses worldwide are experiencing perhaps the quickest and most severe disruption they’ve ever faced. Furthermore, the swift and mass transition for many businesses to remote-only workforces has left leaders feeling disconnected, employees feeling unmotivated, and customers feeling abandoned.

Therefore, deals will be lost, goals unmet, milestones unpassed – and merchants, retailers, and businesses overall are required to have an emergency plan, while it is crucial to continue managing operations and prevent fraud.

COVID-19 has brought with it not only health concerns, but also a lot of scammers, taking advantage of the disorder/panic created. What vulnerabilities to fraud will show most quickly/are already showing?

As with any season of increased orders, fraudsters can hide within spikes in volumes that certain businesses like on demand delivery are seeing. While merchants normally have preparations for months in advance of the Q4 holiday season, many are now left without an adequate defence, staffing, or technology to accommodate what they may be seeing for the indefinite future.

For instance, let’s take an online chain of hypermarkets that, under these circumstances, operates at full capacity, translating into many orders to process, swift time to serve.

If they were forced to make the choice amid unprecedented order volumes/other unexpected events, what type(s) of fraud should they focus on?

We’ll often see that merchants will focus on the fraud that has the highest loss per event, whether it is an order, login, or piece of content depending on the platform. While this makes sense because costs and budgets will be under extreme scrutiny at the moment, we find it bears more fruit to look what actually has the highest risk potential and try not to weight this by cost.

How will this impact Trust and Safety/Fraud teams in particular?

They’ll be pushed beyond their limits, which is especially unfortunate because a lot of Trust and Safety teams are already overleveraged. When I would ask my team to push through for a month or two at a time they would always respond, however begrudgingly, because they knew that there was an end in sight. That’s what’s especially worrisome about COVID-19 for these hypermarkets from a team perspective: how long with they have to keep working at this pace?

How would a strategy focusing on providing ‘trust and safety-first’ products and services look like?

This is a good reflection on seeing why having Trust and Safety teams support products they don’t have input into creating is so tough. While they do get launched (always an ambition) they can have heavily burdensome operational scales which quite simply do not scale.

A strategy that focuses on providing ‘trust and safety-first’ products and services would look like:

  • More information requested and validated at time of sign up (regardless of conversion implications). This helps manual and automated review but especially clean-up of accounts and orders that never should have been created to begin with. Think of this as responsible growth.
  • Balances security and convenience. There are times when your product should reach out to confirm it’s you are logging in, ask you to reinput your payment credentials, or change your password after X days. These need to be the realities of working with a company that has your security in mind, not opt ins for your discretion.
  • Clear, transparent communications. Security measures don’t need to be feared however they do need to be understood. Why are you requesting certain information? Why do you require 2FA or send transactions to 3DS? Have these answers available for your customers and don’t hide from them. You have their best interest in mind.

What about heading up virtual fraud prevention teams? Could you please share with us some top tips for Trust and Safety/Fraud leaders managing these teams?

You have to over communicate: in frequency, in showing your face on video conferences, in sharing best practices. I think everyone is coming to an understanding of what it’s like to work apart from your co-workers at the moment. You can miss those serendipitous conversations or comments that organically happen in an office environment. With virtual teams you need to generate this with an intention to do so.

Documentation becomes very key, especially when your virtual team is working vastly different hours than you are. Consistency is something that Trust and Safety teams always strive for and if you’re not around to answer someone’s question to ensure this, documentation needs to fill the void.

Make sure that the virtual teams have the chance to lead (email comms to the team, run meetings, define policies, etc). While it’s nicer and easier to have everything run from HQ this quickly creates a barrier, and often resentment, to virtual teammates. Remember to try and strike the ‘virtual’ from virtual fraud prevention teams. These are your co-workers and treat them as such.

What advice would you give to leaders/members of a Trust and Safety/Fraud team in order to cope with this sudden change and to stay positive/motivated?

One of the best leaders I ever worked for told me, rather bluntly: ‘I don’t care if you do well when things are easy. I want to know how you respond when you’re faced with adversity’. I think this is something I’d tried to imbue in Trust and Safety teams now. This is a great challenge that you’re facing together, and honestly probably only something your team will truly appreciate. It’s also incumbent upon managers for these teams to celebrate and highlight this work upward to senior leadership. While your team is working this hard currently this should not be the case for every future event… show your work and hopefully you can get more resources allocated after we’re all on the other side of COVID-19.

About Brittany Allen

Brittany Allen has more than a decade of experience combating e-commerce marketplace fraud at companies such as Etsy, Airbnb, 1stdibs, and letgo. Her expertise in fraud mitigation, policy leadership, and dispute management has led her to speak at industry numerous conferences and join Sift as their newest Trust & Safety Architect, a role focusing on trust and safety education, developing industry best practices and strategies, and being the voice of Sift.

About Sift

Sift, formerly Sift Science, is the leader in Digital Trust & Safety, empowering companies of all sizes to unlock revenue without risk. Sift prevents fraud with industry-leading technology and expertise, an unrivalled global data network, and a commitment to building long-term partnerships with our customers. Twitter, Airbnb, and Twilio rely on Sift to stay competitive and secure. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @GetSift.

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Keywords: Brittany Allen, Sift, Digital Trust Safety, merchants, ecommerce, security, fraud prevention, Covid-19, remote working, fraud team
Categories: Securing Transactions | Digital Identity, Security & Online Fraud
Countries: World
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Securing Transactions