June 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Cars.com takes multiple routes to cut payment fraud

By taking a multifaceted approach including screening seller ads, delaying payment processing until three days after authorization, and educating consumers in a special safety blog, Cars.com has eliminated more than 98% of fraudulent orders, it says.

By taking a multifaceted approach including screening seller ads, delaying payment processing until three days after authorization, and educating consumers in a special safety blog, Cars.com has eliminated more than 98% of fraudulent orders, says Mike Kellogg, director of classified products.

To succeed at reducing payment fraud takes consistent efforts to keep ahead of criminals, Kellogg said June 11 at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in a session entitled “The Evolving World of Payment Security.”

“The key is that this is not a once and done solution,” he said, adding that criminals keep getting more creative in exploiting any holes they find in retail web site security. “We never stop fraud, just address it.”

Still, addressing fraud in a comprehensive way can go a long way toward eliminating it, he added. At Cars.com, scams have included attempts to use its well-known brand to trick consumers into sending payments to a fraudulent account. A fictitious escrow service, for instance, will run online ads on Cars.com using the site’s logo, inducing car shoppers to wire money to a “Cars.com” escrow account so that a buyer can receive a vehicle before Cars.com forwards the buyer’s money to the seller. But the criminals behind the fictitious service simply keep the buyer’s money.

In other cases, a fraudulent “buyer” will send a fake cashier’s check, usually valued at more than the price of sale item, to a legitimate seller. The seller then may unwittingly refund the buyer for the extra value of a cashier’s check that itself turns out to be worthless.

Cars.com automatically reviews online ads for fraudulent characteristics, such as extremely low prices or requests for wired funds; it then puts on hold suspicious ads for review.

It has also developed fraud-screening filters that: monitor IP addresses and associate them with past criminal behavior; analyze customer shopping and payment behavior to identify histories of suspicious activity; and create negative and positive lists of buyers and sellers. By constantly reviewing and updating its filters, Cars.com has blocked less than 10% of legitimate orders while blocking 98% of fraudulent ones, Kellogg said.

Cars.com’s safe shopping blog, located at blogs.cars.com/safe, offers advice such as never wiring funds to a buyer or seller and notes that it does not offer its own escrow service, Kellogg added. The blog provides links to shipping and escrow services that Cars.com recommends at DependableShipping.com and Escrow.com.

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