We are so familiar with all the Internet horror stories about viruses, scams, identity theft, and fraud. Sometimes we forget the Internet can be used to fight fraud. That is exactly what some credit bureaus and finance companies are testing by strategically tapping social media (Danielle Kucera, “Using Social Media to Stop Fraud” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/17/13–6/23/13, pp. 48–49).
Social media presents a tremendous amount of data about people, and it usually changes congruently with their lives. Equifax, EBay, PayPal, WePay, and Intuit anticipate the judicious mining of that data will dovetail with their corporate missions. For example, Rajib Roy is the president of Equifax Identity and Fraud Solutions. He affirms his organization’s strong interest in this freely available untapped data:
“‘We are investing a lot in how can we use unstructured data that is sitting out there in social media that can help us understand a little more about identity.’” (p. 48)
Government agencies are already collaborating with Equifax to determine applicant eligibility more effectively. As another example, Intuit is using LinkedIn professional profile data to crosscheck personal identity of new customers.
For all its effectiveness, this is not a slam-dunk. Fraudsters can create fake social media profiles purely to back up their schemes. They can also pay nefarious service providers to add fake friends to their fake Facebook accounts. Nevertheless, the ultimate effectiveness of that strategy is highly suspect. Think about it—a Facebook account that has been thrown together overnight with dozens of “friends” will not have the same date-stamped authenticity as a genuine Facebook account.
When online payment fraud is costing us $3.5 billion annually, I have a feeling this fight will not be over any time soon. In the meantime, just remember before you confirm that next friend request, not every “friend” is truly a friend.