08 Nov 2022
by Lewis Walmesley-Browne, Barley Laing

Guest blog: How to prevent fraud and deliver a positive customer experience during festive trading

Guest blog by Barley Laing, UK Managing Director at Melissa.

Despite the fact they are fairly new retail events in the UK, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are quickly becoming an established and important part of the festive trading period. Those who participate can generate around 300 per cent more sales on these days compared to the average day in November.

With the cost of living crisis more people will be searching online for good value gifts at Christmas. As a result, many businesses expect Black Friday and Cyber Monday to be the biggest sales days of the year.

However, a big issue facing retailers this year is fraud. Recent findings from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reveal that since the start of 2021 online businesses in the UK lost nearly £2.4 billion through fraud. This figure is set to grow with an increase in digital engagement, as cyber criminals become savvier with the technology at their disposal and as the cost of living crisis bites.

This poses the question - what steps can organisations take to make sure that they don’t end up losing out as a victim of fraud, yet at the same time ensure a positive customer experience?

Data hygiene first approach

Before obtaining ID verification tools a good first step to help prevent fraud is to have processes in place that deliver data hygiene on an ongoing basis.

For example, when it comes to the data cleansing process, one of the most valuable tools is an address autocomplete or lookup service, which gathers accurate address data in real-time at the onboarding stage. These tools also provide address validation - supporting ID verification.

It’s important to realise that because ID checks pick up basic issues with data, such as an incorrectly formatted address, it’s better value and best practice to ensure you have accurate user contact data in the first place.

The good news is evolving technology makes it even more straightforward to deliver data quality. Today, you can pay for a licence to access a data cleaning platform that requires no code, integration or training - simply plug in and benefit, immediately.

Undertake electronic ID verification (eIDV)

It’s particularly important those selling high value items or subscriptions use identity verification tools, in addition to having good data hygiene. A good place to start is to undertake eIDV. With eIDV when someone goes through the purchase process it can run real-time cross-checks against the contact data provided – such as name, address, phone number, email address, and date of birth – in the background. This way the business can confirm that they are dealing with the actual identified individual and are meeting know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) objectives.

Also, an eIDV service can clean the data provided by prospective customers before an ID check is performed. This will maximise the chance of getting a successful ‘match’ in the reference data, and not fail because of something trivial like a misspelled road or postcode.

Importantly, with all the cross-checks undertaken instantaneously with eIDV, there’s no negative impact on the customer experience.

When investigating a possible automated eIDV service only source one which has access to billions of global records in real-time, including up-to-date sanctions, watchlists, and politically exposed persons (PEP) data, as part of its dataset. These provide the most comprehensive identity solution.

Because eIDV capabilities can be delivered through apps, SaaS, and web APIs, they can integrate seamlessly into existing platforms. If required, they can also be easily scaled up, delivering as little as 100 checks, through to many millions per year.

Biometrics can securely speed up ID verification

In tandem with eIDV, automated biometric technology with optical character recognition (OCR) plays a vital role in verifying ID without the requirement for time-consuming security questions and passwords. By undertaking facial and document verification it’s possible to check the validity of ID documentation in real-time, along with successfully examining the image in the master ID documents with the selfie provided by the applicant or customer to see if they match. Once their ID has been confirmed, virtually instantaneously, customers can securely access their products and services in real-time – improving the user experience. However, it’s important that the OCR technology used is able to offer liveness checks, and request a ‘challenge response’, such as blinking, to prevent any attempts at impersonation.

Discard manual ID checks

In an age of automated ID verification it’s time for costly and time consuming manual ID checks to end. Also, manual verification is subject to human error because it’s not straightforward for staff to check documents for authenticity, and employees can’t be expected to know all ID document types which can cause review-related delays.

With the vital festive trading period getting underway the accuracy, speed and cost benefits offered by the technology powering data quality and ID verification are significantly better than any manual approach. The technology available provides a vital layer of protection to prevent costly fraudulent activity and in the process ensure businesses deliver a smooth customer experience. Importantly, data quality tools like address autocomplete and those in the ID space, such as eIDV and OCR biometric technology, can be quickly integrated within existing systems in time for the peak festive trading season.

This guest blog was written by Barley Laing, UK Managing Director at Melissa. To learn more about Melissa, please visit their LinkedIN and Twitter page.


Lewis Walmesley-Browne

Lewis Walmesley-Browne

Head of Programme: Market Access and Consumer Tech, techUK

Barley Laing

Barley Laing

UK Managing Director, Melissa

Barley Laing joined Melissa in 2014 during an exciting expansion phase of the California headquartered company.

As Managing Director, with 24 years of technology and data industry experience, his role is focused on meeting the customer onboarding, data quality and ID/compliance needs for organisations in the UK and worldwide.

The team that Barley heads up provides sales, data consultancy and technical support for their wide range of software solutions, which help organisations to achieve efficient data verification and management; and meet ID, Know your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) requirements. 

Under his leadership Melissa’s UK office has experienced double digit growth over the last five years in a row, including 21% in 2021. Over this period he has significantly grown the UK client base, which includes: the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; GCHQ; Financial Conduct Authority (FCA); BBC; BAE Systems; GSK and Mars.

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