August 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

Why retailers can probably trust consumers with lots of Facebook friends

It takes time to gain friends on a social network, which is why an e-mail address tied to a popular Facebook profile is a sign of a valid consumer. Rapleaf tracks a consumer’s social network ties, and Accertify will use that data to prevent fraud.

Accertify uses many sources of information about consumers, such as phone and mailing address records, to evaluate whether an online transaction is likely to be fraudulent. Now it’s added data gleaned from social networks to its fraud-prevention arsenal.

Accertify announced today a deal to incorporate into its fraud-screening process data from Rapleaf, a company that has indexed over 600 million e-mail addresses, and tracks such information as how many social network profiles a particular e-mail address is tied to, and how many friends connect to profile pages associated with that address.

That’s useful data because it takes a long time to accumulate a lot of friends on a social network like Facebook and MySpace, and an e-mail address created by a criminal intent on committing fraud is not likely to match the profile of an active, long-term social networker, says Jeff Liesendahl, Accertify’s CEO. When preparing to commit fraud, he says, a criminal typically will create an e-mail address so that any communication from the retailer will come back to him. A newly created e-mail address like that would not have much of a history on social networks, making Rapleaf’s data useful for detecting fraud.

“We consider this a gold mine for fraud prevention,” Liesendahl says.

Accertify provides fraud-prevention services to 33 online companies, about two-thirds of them retailers, including 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, and Urban Outfitters Inc., No. 57.

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