Fraud Prevention

Protecting Against Sharing Platform ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Scams

Not all of the nearly 15 million U.S. RV campers who rely on online vehicle marketplaces get what they pay for. Scammers can pose as RV owners and persuade legitimate customers to transact outside platforms’ secure boundaries — stealing funds for nonexistent wheels. In this month’s Fraud Decisioning Playbook, RV rental platform RVshare CEO Jon Gray explains how the marketplace is tapping artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to put the brakes on off-platform fraud.

Fraudsters have public reputations as shadowy, crafty figures wielding dozens of tools for illegitimate uses. This perception is especially accurate when it comes to digital marketplaces, where consumers mainly conduct transactions without face-to-face interactions, circumstances in which cybercriminals can take full advantage.

Platforms responsible for person-to-person (P2P) transactions, such as RV sharing website RVshare, rely heavily on consumer trust, which can be immediately erased if an instance of fraud leaves customers without goods or money. It is critical for RVshare to constantly look for fraud, CEO Jon Gray said in a recent interview with PYMNTS, but that does not mean the platform should give fraudsters as much credit as their reputations may suggest.

“Is fraud a risk? Certainly, and we take that risk seriously,” Gray said. “The things we see most often [on the platform] are not necessarily the cutting-edge things — they’re the simple, low-hanging-fruit things to do as a fraudster. … The simplest way — not just for our marketplace, but for marketplaces across the board — for a fraudster or scammer to work is to get people off the platform and [have them pay] directly, typically [with] a method like wire transfer.”

This low-hanging fruit includes the misleading listings and false identity scams that get legitimate users to make payments off-platform, he said. RVshare is, thus, employing anti-fraud measures to prevent cybercriminals from whisking consumers away from safety, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms that assess potential listings’ fraud risks before they even arrive on the platform.

RVshare’s Multi-Tiered Anti-Fraud Approach

RVshare operates like most sharing platforms in that it conveniently connects individual RV owners with potential renters. The site is responding to the growing prevalence of typical fraud schemes by cultivating constant vigilance.

“It is important to have a mindset that fraudsters are always trying to access your marketplace, and that you have got to stay a step ahead of them,” Gray said. “So, this is not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative within the business. This is something that has to be constantly tested [and] pushed forward to make sure fraud does not become a problem within the marketplace.”

RVshare’s current strategy encompasses several technologies, including proprietary AI and machine learning algorithms that isolate fraud patterns that might be invisible to the naked eye, and highlight red flags in new listings or photos about to be uploaded. Any listing or other data spotlighted by these automated tools is then double-checked manually by a dedicated internal team, which both decreases the site’s fraud risk and trains its AI.

“Oftentimes, there is something that [our] AI or [machine learning tools] will call out that we will flag for manual review, and we have a team that is trained to dig into that listing, and determine whether it is a fraudulent listing or not,” Gray said. “Basically, [the team] will review it, and if they are seeing a consistent pattern [of fraud], we can modify the AI or [machine learning tools] to account for that pattern.”

RVshare has also partnered with payment systems and vendors that possess their own anti-fraud measures to protect against chargebacks or credit card fraud. Furthermore, the company performs identity verification checks when onboarding owners, renters and vehicles, such as matching driver’s license photos and other data for authentication, in an attempt to keep fraudsters from moving transactions off the platform and away from these security features.

Protecting Against Off-Platform Fraud 

Unfortunately, there is no one fraud tool or technology that can entirely mitigate that worry, which means renters and owners must interact on digital marketplaces to maintain trust.

“Really, the biggest fraud risk in our marketplace or any other is renters going off the platform,” Gray said. “If somebody posts a picture, and there is a phone number in it, for example, we take that off the site. What will happen is fraudsters will put pictures like that up, have the renters dial the phone number and then ask the renter[s] for money over the phone to pay for the rental that is not actually a rental. So, what we advise people to do, obviously, is to keep the transactions on the platform, and pay securely through the platform.”

Little can remedy a fraudulent act once payments have moved off-site, so fraudsters will continue to cultivate their criminal reputations away from platforms. It is, thus, essential that online businesses and their customers keep their guard up to avoid being be led away and duped.

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