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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

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December 17, 2018

Card Fraud Values Often above Average

Recent data from the Federal Reserve Payments Study remind me of my first experience with payments fraud as a 20-something college grad freshly arrived in Boston. I left my wallet in a conference room, and someone lifted my credit card. I still remember the metaphorical punch to the stomach when the telephone operator at the card company asked, "Did you spend $850 at Filene's Basement?" $850! That was more than twice my rent, and far more than I could conceive of spending at Boston's bargain hunters' paradise in a year, let alone on a one-night spree.

Decades later, the first thing I do to check my card and bank statements is to scan the amounts and pay attention to anything in the three digits. For noticing high-value card fraud, this is a pretty good habit.

That's because, on average, fraudulent card payments are for greater dollar values than nonfraudulent card payments. In 2016, the average value of a fraudulent credit card payment was $128, almost 50 percent more than $88 for a nonfraudulent credit card payment. For debit cards, the relationship was more pronounced: $75 for the average fraudulent payment, about twice the $38 average nonfraudulent payment, according to the Federal Reserve Payments Study.

Chart-average-value-per-payment-2016

Even to the noncriminal mind, this relationship makes sense: get as much value from the card before the theft or other unauthorized use is discovered. For a legitimate user, budgetary constraints (like mine way back when) and other considerations can come into play.

Interestingly, this relationship does not hold for remote payments. In 2016, the average dollar values of remote debit card payments, fraudulent and nonfraudulent, were the same: $68. And the average value of a nonfraudulent remote credit card payment, $151, exceeded that of a fraudulent remote credit card payment, $130. Why the switcheroo?

A couple of possibilities: Remote card payments include online bill payments, which often are associated with a verified street address and are of high value. So that could be pushing the non-fraudulent remote payments toward a high value relative to the fraudulent remote payments. Another factor could be that fraud detection methods used by ecommerce sites look for values that could be outliers, so perpetrators avoid making purchases that would trigger detection—and thus average values for remote fraud are closer to average values for remote purchases generally. But this is speculation. What do you think?

The relationships described here are depicted in figures 21 and 28 of the recent report of the Federal Reserve Payments Study, Changes in the U.S. Payments Fraud Landscape from 2012 to 2016. You can explore other relationships among average values of payments, and more, on the payments study web page.

Photo of Claire Greene By Claire Greene, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

December 10, 2018

A Look in the Rearview Mirror of Payments for 2018

I'm sure just about everyone else in the payments industry would agree with me that 2018 was yet another exciting year for payments. The year was filled with a host of newsworthy events, but fintech most certainly took center stage in the financial services industry, including payments. Whether the news highlighted an announcement of a new product to increase financial access or discussed the regulatory challenges and associated concerns within the fintech space, it seemed that fintech made its way into the news on a daily basis. Still, for payments, 2018 will be remembered for more than just fintech.

The Retail Payments Risk Forum's last Talk About Payments webinar of 2018 will feature Doug King, Dave Lott, and Jessica Washington sharing their perspectives and memories on the year-in-payments in a round table discussion. Among the topics they will discuss are consumer payment preferences, the changing retail environment, and the state of fraud—and fintech, of course. We encourage financial institutions, retailers, payments processors, law enforcement, academia, and other payments system stakeholders to participate in this webinar. Participants will be able to submit questions during the webinar.

The webinar will be held on Thursday, December 20, from 1 to 2 p.m. (ET). Participation in the webinar is free, but you must register in advance. To register, click on the TAP webinar link. After you complete your registration, you will receive a confirmation email with all the log-in and toll-free call-in information. A recording of the webinar will be available to all registered participants in various formats within a couple of weeks.

We look forward to you joining us on December 20 and sharing your perspectives on the major payment themes of 2018.

Photo of Douglas King By Douglas A. King, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed


November 5, 2018

Organizational Muscle Memory and the Right of Boom

"Left of boom" is a military term that refers to crisis prevention and training. The idea is that resources are focused on preparing soldiers to prevent an explosion or crisis—the "boom!" The training they undergo in left of boom also helps the soldiers commit their response to a crisis, if it does happen, to muscle memory, so they will act quickly and efficiently in life-threatening situations.

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The concept of the boom timeline has been applied to many other circumstances, as I can personally attest. More years ago than I will admit to, I was a teller and had to participate in quarterly bank-robbery training that focused on each employee's role during and immediately after a robbery. The goal was to help us commit these procedures to muscle memory so that when we were faced with a high-stress situation, our actions would be second nature. My training was tested one day when I came face-to-face with a motorcycle-helmet-wearing bank robber who leaped over the counter into the teller area. Like most bank robbers, he was in and out fast, but thanks to muscle memory, we were springing into action as soon as he was leaping back over the counter and running out of the branch.

This type of muscle memory preparation has also been applied to cybersecurity. Organizations commit significant human and capital resources to the left of boom to help prevent and detect threats to their networks. Unfortunately, cybersecurity experts must get things right 100 percent of the time while bad actors have to be right only once. So how do organizations prepare for the right of boom?

Recently, I had the opportunity to observe a right-of-boom exercise that simulated a systemic cyberbreach of the payments system. This event, billed as the first of its kind, was sponsored by P20 and held in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cybersecurity leaders from the payments industry convened to engage in a war games exercise that was ripped from the headlines. The scenario: a Thanksgiving Day cyberbreach, the day before the biggest shopping day of the year, of a multinational financial services company that included the theft and online posting of 75 million customer records, along with a ransomware attack that shut down the company's computer systems. The exercise began with a phone call from a reporter asking for the company's response to the posting of customer records online—BOOM! Immediately, the discussion turned to an incident response plan. What actions would be taken first? Who do you call? How do you communicate with employees if your system has been overtaken by a ransomware attack? How do you serve your customers? What point is the "in case of fire break glass" moment, meaning, has your organization defined what constitutes a crisis and agreed on when to initiate the crisis response plan?

An overarching theme was the importance of the "commander's intent," which reflects the priorities of the organization in the event of an incident. It empowers employees to exercise "disciplined initiative" and "accept prudent risk"—both principles associated with the military philosophy of "mission command"—so the company can return to its primary business as quickly as possible. In the context of a cyberbreach that has shut down communication channels within an organization, employees, in the absence of management guidance, can analyze the situation, make decisions, and then take action. The commander's intent forms the basis of an organization's comprehensive incident response plan and helps to create a shared understanding of organizational goals by identifying the key things your organization must execute to maintain operations.

Here is an example of a commander's intent statement:

Process all deposits and electronic transactions to ensure funds availability for all customers within established regulatory timeframes.

Having a plan in place where everyone from the top of the organization down understands their role and then practicing that plan until it becomes rote, much like my bank robbery experience, is critical today.

Photo of Ian Perry-Okara  By Nancy Donahue, project manager in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

 

October 22, 2018

Three Views of Noncash Payments Fraud

Despite what we might gather from the headlines, payments fraud is a small fraction of the value of all payments.In 2015, by value, it was only about 1/200 of 1 percent of noncash payment transactions. The pie chart shows what a tiny slice of the pie that payments fraud is.

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This view of the value of payments fraud in 2015 is one of three views that today's post will offer, using data from a recently released payments fraud report.

The report, based on data from the Federal Reserve Payments Study, quantifies noncash payments fraud by value and number in 2012 and 2015 and provides information that can help inform efforts to prevent and detect payments fraud. Data include detail on different payment instruments and transaction types.

Fraud value is defined in the report to be the value of unauthorized third-party payments that were cleared and settled, before any chargebacks, returns, or recoveries. It does not include the costs of any prevention, detection, or remediation methods. The report covers noncash payments used for everyday consumer and business transactions, including automated clearinghouse (ACH), check, and card payments. (Wires are excluded.)

Here's the next view of payments fraud by value: most payments fraud is by card. Slightly more than three-quarters of noncash payments fraud by value are credit card, debit card (prepaid and non-prepaid), and ATM withdrawal fraud; almost half is credit card fraud. The second chart shows that by value, ACH fraud is 14 percent of noncash payments fraud and check fraud is 8.6 percent.

Image-two-sm

Finally, fraud rates by value for cards increased from 2012 to 2015 while fraud rates for check payments decreased and fraud rates for ACH stayed flat. That rate increase for cards means that the value of fraudulent card payments grew faster than the dollar-value growth overall, which is concerning. Indeed, card fraud by value grew more than three times faster than the growth in card payments and ATM withdrawals by value—64 percent compared to 21 percent. ACH fraud grew more in line with the growth rate in ACH payments, with fraud by value increasing 11 percent compared to a 13 percent increase in the value of total ACH payments.

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You can find additional data in the report at https://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/fr-payments-study.htm.

To learn more about the payments fraud report, join our next Talk About Payments webinar on November 1 at 11 a.m. (ET). The webinar is open to the public but you must register in advance to participate. (Registration is free.) Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with login and call-in information. Also, be sure to check back next Monday for another Take On Payments post about the report.

Photo of Claire Greene By Claire Greene, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

 

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