Building bridges in the fight against (online) fraud

By Piet Lakeman, Senior Policy Lead • Visa Europe

And Debbie Grant, Senior Policy Lead • Visa Europe

November 09, 2016

Security is one of the fundamental values that underpin the Visa brand and the card business of every Visa client. With card not present fraud continuing to grow it is raising concerns well beyond the payment card industry. National Governments, law enforcement agencies, the European Commission and the public have voiced concerns about this ongoing trend and its possible effect on the trust in the electronic payment system.

In the 1990’s card fraud was predominated by counterfeiting and the establishment of Visa member fraud groups was seen as an adequate innovation in the fight against such criminal activity. But Visa always thought that this was not sufficient in their efforts to fight fraud. Throughout the years we have been a strong believer in public and private cooperation in the fight against payment card fraud.

The first statement made by Visa about the improvement of public and private cooperation was a European Commission funded project in 1996. This project “Cooperation to combat organised payment card crime affecting the European Union” was organised by the Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom and the Dutch National Police Agency, The Netherlands in partnership with Visa International. This project resulted between 2001 and 2007 in the European Commission’s Fraud Prevention Action Plan 1 and 2 both supported by Visa.

The overall objectives of these action plans were to strengthen law enforcement cooperation, promote a better information exchange between law enforcement and other parties and to explore areas of possible private-public partnerships between the financial sector and law enforcement agencies. As a result of this Visa supported throughout the years various public/private initiatives such as the development of bespoke training seminars and material for law enforcement, and since 2013 our close cooperation with Europol.

With losses nowadays predominantly in the virtual world, an alternative approach is needed. Since our involvement in the discussions in 1996 were often overall very formal and little about tensions, dilemmas and best practices, Visa Europe’s Fraud Strategy & Criminal Disruption team developed and introduced a unified European holistic approach among stakeholders i.e. Merchants, clients and law enforcement agencies as a more effective strategy to continue to fight against fraud in the Visa payment system. This new approach in the fight against online fraud resulted in the airline days of action in 2013. Since then with our encouragement other regions around the globe have embraced this approach and in October this year 5 airline days of action resulted in the arrest of 193 people for airline fraud.

Based on the success of the airline days of action Visa Europe explored the possibilities to become successful in other merchant sectors in the fight against online fraud.

In June 2016 Visa approached the Dedicated Card Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) a specialist police unit in the UK funded by the banks who are dedicated to CNP fraud, to organise a retail week of action along with merchants and Visa clients, this led to 11 suspects being arrested and £222,000 worth of fraud, due to the success of this week of action a second week of action was organised in October with the involvement of 11 UK retailers, 10 UK banks and an acquirer, 9 suspects were arrested worth nearly £380,000 worth of fraud, cash and high value goods including a high value car was also confiscated under the proceeds of crime. A second European week of action was also organised along with Europol in 9 EU countries the following week. This European retail week of action resulted in the arrest of 42 individuals with a total of €3.5 million worth of fraud. Links with other crimes were also revealed including money laundering and terrorism.

The next challenges for Visa Europe’s Fraud Strategy & Criminal Disruption team is to turn the retail week of action into a more “business as usual” approach similar to what we have already done in several countries with airline fraud.

Although there is a cultural difference between the public and private sector, we believe in our holistic approach to public and private partnership and will explore opportunities to strengthen relationships in more sectors and where possible take the lead.

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