Friendly fraud is a menace to online merchants. Find out who’s behind these schemes, and how e-commerce businesses stop them.

Janet does a lot of her shopping online. She recently was laid off from her job though, and money has been tight. She placed a large order for groceries from a well-known retail website and paid for them using her credit card. The groceries arrived safely on her doorstep, but she realized the company hadn’t used a tracking number. After pondering for a bit, she called her credit card company and reported that she never received the items. She initiated a chargeback claim.

There are many ways that people commit online fraud, but as you can see, “friendly fraud chargeback” may be one of the hardest to detect and protect against.

What is friendly fraud?

Friendly fraud (also known as chargeback fraud or e-commerce fraud) occurs when a customer like Janet buys an item online using their credit card but then claims the charges are invalid in order to obtain a refund after receiving the goods or services.

This type of true fraud is nicknamed “friendly fraud” because the claims can be either the result of honest customer confusion or false reports by intentionally malicious customers.

When friendly fraud occurs

Friendly fraud can occur when a customer contacts their credit card company or card issuer and initiates a chargeback process for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The customer doesn’t recall making the purchase.
  • The item received differs from its online description.
  • The customer didn’t receive the product or services they ordered.
  • The customer canceled the order but still received the item.
  • The customer returned the item but didn’t receive a refund.

Commonly, a physical card isn’t present in cases of friendly fraud. Instead, customers like Janet shop online or with a call center agent. In these cases, it often is hard for the merchant to prove receipt of the purchase if a chargeback situation occurs. This is called a “card-not-present” (CNP) chargeback.

In 2017, CNP fraud was so difficult to prove that U.S. companies lost a total of $4 billion to it. Furthermore, the loss is predicted to reach $6.4 billion by 2021, largely due to the surging popularity of online shopping.

Improved Customer Experience

Issuing banks are also making the chargeback process relatively easy by improving customer service for consumers, who can file a chargeback with the financial institution instead of dealing with the merchant directly to receive a refund. They also tend to side with the customer, which makes it difficult for the merchant to prove fraudulent intent.

In addition to the lost dollars from the items charged back (like Janet’s groceries), it’s important to note that the merchant also often has to pay additional costs such as chargeback and processing fees and shipping costs – not to mention the cost of the lost ROT.

Preventing friendly fraud

Friendly fraud is one of the top seven e-commerce fraud threats facing online retailers.

Therefore, it’s important for businesses processing credit card transactions online and by phone to have extra precautions in place because the physical card is not present. This is one reason you see businesses asking for the card verification value (CVV) on credit cards.

A Few Simple Steps

In addition to asking for the CVV, some simple steps merchants can take to protect themselves include keeping detailed records of all transactions, including delivery confirmation tracking on customer orders, developing a simple and efficient refund process, and ensuring systems are in place to monitor suspicious customer behavior.

In the case of Janet’s groceries, a tracking number may have given the merchant more of a case against her chargeback.

The Value of Automation

Some call centers also integrate automation technology that enables the customer to input their credit card information directly into the phone system without giving it to the call center agent. It also requires the consumer to verbally record their name as a “signature.”

This essentially creates a “card-is-present” system via the phone transaction, protecting the business from friendly fraud.

Software Will Help, Too

E-commerce fraud prevention software is valuable for detecting and protecting against friendly fraud. With such a solution, merchants can detect any current fraud while they build a database to recognize future fraudulent behavior.

If you are concerned about friendly fraud, keep in mind these common friendly fraud triggers: 

  • large order sizes
  • orders that ship to an address other than the billing address 
  • the same customer purchasing multiple small transactions in a row.

Experts estimate that up to 80% of chargebacks involve fraudulent behavior. To combat this, offers chargeback protection technology that can help reduce the dollar amount businesses lose to chargebacks.

To learn more about friendly fraud and speak with a fraud detection or prevention specialist, contact us today.