Survey: E-commerce fraud picture stable in North America

Mountain View, Calif. -- Survey results released Tuesday by CyberSource, a Visa Co., showed that the online fraud rate has remained flat in the United States and Canada; however, U.K. merchants are seeing a rise in e-commerce fraud.

According to the annual surveys of e-commerce fraud in North America and the United Kingdom, the 2010 fraud rate (the percent of accepted orders which later turn out to be fraudulent) remained at 0.9% for the second straight year.

U.K. merchants, on the other hand, said their fraud rate rose from 1.6% in 2009 to an average of 1.9% in 2010 -- twice the rate seen by U.S./Canadian merchants.

CyberSource pointed to a number of likely causes for this development in the U.K., ranging from the greater incidence of cross-border e-commerce within the European region to “fraud migration” in which fraudsters, facing stiff challenges in one location, simply direct their efforts elsewhere, including the United Kingdom.

Among other key findings from the 2010 surveys, the North American fraud rate of 0.9% translates to a 2010 merchant dollar loss of approximately $2.7 billion. This is the second consecutive decline in North American fraud losses. CyberSource estimates U.S./Canadian merchants lost $3.3 billion in 2009, and $4.0 billion in 2008.

Manual review of online orders, considered an effective but expensive anti-fraud practice, had little impact. In the United Kingdom in 2010, merchants manually reviewed 20% of their orders, slightly above the year before; in North America, the rate was 17%, down from 20% the year before.

Merchants in both North America and the United Kingdom ultimately accepted over 70% of the orders they chose to manually review. According to Doug Schwegman, CyberSource Director, Worldwide Market Intelligence “More accurate automated screening could yield savings to merchants on both sides of the Atlantic.”

According to the surveys, both North American and U.K. merchants are making significant use of case management systems (which consolidate order information and present the results for reviewers to assess). The survey found that 37% of U.K. merchants use such systems compared to 41% of U.S./Canadian merchants.

If merchants in either group believe the answer to their fraud issues lies in more people, their budgets do not reflect that strategy. Only 13% of U.K. merchants say they have budget to increase staff in the year ahead -- 16% in North America.

The surveys found that automated detection is a top priority: 53% of North American merchants identified improving automated fraud detection as a top priority for 2011. About 30% of U.K. merchant respondents agreed. 

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