Data Dive

Stops, Starts And Never Was Edition: Intuit, Zillow And Amazon

Data Dive: Intuit, Zillow And Amazon

Followers of the regular news cycle will note that between the action on Capitol Hill and in North Korea, the flow of news was a lot of big starts, fast stops and the occasional piece of speculation about events that may or may not have happened.

Followers of the payments and commerce news cycle would have noticed a similar pattern – albeit with less shouting and speechifying for the benefit of the audience watching at home. Which means it was less histrionic than what was airing on prime-time cable news – though on the upside, the payments and commerce coverage was factually clear and easy to follow.

And in case you didn’t follow it, we have the quick hits here…

Intuit Says It Definitely Wasn’t Hacked

TurboTax parent Intuit is denying reports that emerged about a week ago that the tax assistance software was breached and that users’ data was exposed to hackers. Intuit has formally stated that the reports are not correct, and that the Dark Reading blog that first ran the story had derived it from a mistaken reading of an internal corporate document.

“The document referenced in the blog post was a notification to a state that a customer’s account experienced unauthorized access by a third party using legitimate log-in credentials that Intuit believes were obtained from sources outside the company,” Intuit said in the statement.

The issue at hand, according to Intuit, was over credential use, and not in any way related to a data breach. The credentials themselves, the company noted, could have come from any number of sources on the dark web, as opposed to from Intuit’s internal data.

The Dark Reading blog reported that successful fraudulent login attempts exposed to cybercriminals a trove of consumer data, including the prior year’s tax return or current tax returns in progress, Social Security number, address, birthdate, drivers’ license numbers and financial data.

The apparently erroneous report of a data breach comes as TurboTax is currently entering its peak season, and Intuit does not want to see its large annual customer base scared off by a hack that never actually happened.

Time to Say Goodbye … to Dash Buttons

The physical Dash button first offered by Amazon four years ago is about to take its final bow and exit, stage left. The eCommerce giant has announced it is discontinuing the button, which was first conceived as an easy way for customers to repeat certain product orders over and over again.

Reports indicate that the final Dash button sales ended with February a few days ago, as their use was quickly usurped by Alexa and the host of connected devices now available. It’s much easier to place an order with Alexa than to hit a button – and even for customers who like that method, a physical button wasn’t really necessary. Amazon has since rolled out virtual Dash buttons that live on the website and mobile app, which do the same thing as physical Dash buttons, minus the actual button.

Amazon will still provide support to customers who use the Dash buttons.

“Since the introduction of the Dash program, we’ve continued to work on making the shopping experience convenient and easy, and in some cases, even disappear for customers,” Amazon said in the statement. “With Dash Replenishment, we’ve launched hundreds of devices globally that automatically reorder essentials so customers don’t have to think at all about restocking. And we introduced virtual Dash buttons, which are available digitally – whether online, in the Amazon app, through screened devices like Echo Show or on third-party devices. We look forward to continuing support for our customers’ shopping needs, including growing our Dash Replenishment retail product lineup and expanding availability of virtual Dash buttons.”

Zillow to Go Full Speed Ahead on Mortgages

Zillow is officially moving to take on a bigger chunk of the real estate market. The company doesn’t want to just help customers find homes – it wants to help them finance the homes as well.  

According to Co-founder and Chief Executive Rich Barton, Zillow plans to create an Amazon-like platform experience for mortgages.

The goal, he noted, is to tie mortgage origination and servicing into the app, in much the same way that payments have integrated into Uber. Zillow plans to add the mortgage business to its financial reports starting in the second quarter.

Zillow has been originating mortgages for the past few months since buying Mortgage Lenders of America. Citing a 10-K filing, Zillow said it paid $66.7 million in cash for the company last year and originated 4,400 home loans. Now Zillow wants to scale that up, with a goal of originating 3,000 home loans each month in the next three to five years. This year, it aims to earn $100 million to $115 million in revenue from its mortgage business, bringing annual growth between 24 percent and 44 percent. In the long term, Zillow expects to originate loans on about one-third of the homes it sells.

“This is why we founded Zillow, to actually change the way people bought and sold houses, and the way they found a new place,” Barton told GeekWire. “This was our original conception, something like this to actually solve the real estate headaches that we were experiencing, that our moms and sisters and brothers were experiencing.”

The expansion will have costs: Zillow noted in its most recent 10-K that it may have to raise money to fund the expansion of originations and home sales, and there could be conflicts with some of its mortgage partners. Risks aside, however, Barton is excited to push Zillow to its next evolutionary level.

“My eyes are wide as I look up in the sky and see the moon, and I want to go,” Barton said. “To me, this is one of the more exciting opportunities I’ve seen in my business career, and it’s why I’m recommitting in all kinds of ways.”

So what did we learn this week? “Look before you leap” springs to mind – particularly if you’re reporting on a security breach, it makes sense to confirm it actually happened. But more broadly, we learned that change is the only truly ubiquitous force in payments and commerce, as something is always entering, reforming or exiting.


New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.