Winston Churchill is often credited with the expression: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” It is up for debate whether he actually coined the phrase, as there are no recordings or writings of Churchill that include it, though contemporaries recall him saying it. Apocryphal or not, it is extremely relevant to the present times, Trulioo Chief Operating Officer Zac Cohen and Karen Webster noted in a recent conversation, as the rapid shutdown of the physical economy in response to the COVID-19 epidemic has forced all businesses, and SMBs in particular, to radically rethink and reset their business models in ways most probably weren’t imagining a few months ago.
“I think we've seen around 30 years of digitization efforts unfolding in about three months,” Cohen said, noting that the pressures have forced SMBs to act incredibly quickly and with an unprecedented focus on the digital world. And the challenges — particularly the security challenges — existed both for the digitally native firms that suddenly found their services in-demand and rapidly scaling, as well as the Main Street SMBs that were forced to make the great digital leap forward. Both are trying to adjust their operations in real time while being besieged by an influx of fraudsters who are also determined not to let the crisis go to waste.
It’s a challenge, Cohen said, but one that can be overcome — provided those SMBs can get the right kind of support. Trulioo has been pushing to provide that support in the last two months, both via their own direct efforts and via their participation with American Express’ Stand for Small initiative.
“I really believe SMB [owners] are some of the most talented, hardworking folks out there, and I believe they really just need help asking the right questions and knowing where to look. We can give them that,” Cohen said.
A New Landscape
Fraud is certainly not a problem that is new to the digital landscape — a cursory glance at the data, Cohen told Webster, shows that the proliferation of attacks and fraud vectors across digital channels is a story that is now over a decade old. But in the new landscape, consumers, workers, and big and small businesses have all gone online, and are interacting in a largely digital way. It is a target-rich environment, he noted, and the fraudsters are actively pursuing it.
And for the SMBs that are in the process of making a major leap into digital nearly overnight, it’s not just what they don’t know about fraud, but it’s what they don’t know they don’t know — and “it’s leaving a lot of people open to threats,” Cohen warned.
“There will be more sophisticated attacks aimed at very specific businesses, but frankly, fraud is a numbers game,” he explained. “The most common attacks are not necessarily super sophisticated — they just find those who aren’t necessarily familiar with them and get caught up. It’s why we often see a high-quantity and low-quality bend in fraud — it’s worthwhile for the fraudsters because it works.”
The good news is that SMBs increasingly have access to better, more developed tools to push back on fraud. A decade ago, that might not have been the case — most of the best fraud prevention and identity tools were aimed at enterprise firms, and were too heavy, cumbersome and expensive for SMBs to integrate. Today, noted Cohen, the digitization of everything means that out-of-the-box, plug-and-play tools abound, making them accessible and relatively affordable to implement.
But beyond merely having the right tools, Cohen pointed out that SMBs also must adopt the right strategic approach to fighting fraud, whether they are just beginning a foray into digital commerce or are already well-established and rapidly hitting scale. The security consequence, the fraud risks and the plans for mitigation must be brought to the forefront of the planning process before any new initiative is launched, rather than trying to figure it out after the fraud spike has already occurred.
“If people really take time in the beginning to consider both elements, we'll all be a lot better off, because going back and changing midstream or trying to bolt something on that wasn't part of the original play makes it more challenging,” Cohen said, noting that SMBs need fewer challenges, not new ones.
Building A Bridge To Recovery
While there is no denying the unexpected challenges that have cropped up for SMBs in the last few weeks, it is equally remarkable how quickly they have risen to those challenges, and how other firms have risen to support them. For Trulioo, Cohen said, it has been a longtime priority to work with SMBs and to build tools that will work as well for them as for the largest companies in the world.
It’s why they joined Amex's Stand for Small initiative — a collaboration of 40 firms including Pinterest, eBay, Avis, Facebook, IBM, LinkedIn and many others to create a network of support for SMBs that are struggling to get through the current turbulence. Trulioo will offer three months of free identity verifications for any SMB that signs up.
According to Cohen, it symbolizes a deeper commitment on the part of Trulioo and many other businesses to make sure we don’t only economically get through this, but perhaps emerge better and stronger than before.
“I think when we're in a position where we're struggling as an economy and as a community, leaning on each other and helping each other is the best way to pay it forward and pay it back,” Cohen said.