Man using credit card for online purchases

How to Prevent Fraud in Online Communities

By now, pretty much everyone is comfortable doing business on the internet. We order pizza, buy books and gifts, plan vacations, and book hotels and flights and just about anything you can exchange for money. This is almost always undertaken without a second thought, but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when buying stuff online seemed like a risky proposition, and young internet companies had to go to great lengths to assure potential customers that their service was safe.

Now it’s different: we’re all used to tip-tapping in our credit card numbers at a moment’s notice. But in the past few years, a new type of online service has arrived, one that brings consumers directly in contact with other members of the community. Services like Uber or Airbnb put you inside someone else’s car or house. Suddenly, money is not the only thing to worry about. Safety is now the most important thing. For online communities, prevention and detection of fraud is more important than ever. Here are some ways companies are preventing fraud and keeping their users safe.

Facebook and Google Verification

A virtual ID card doesn’t quite exist yet, but your Facebook profile might come pretty close. Companies as diverse and different as Airbnb and Tinder are offering users the option of logging in using their Facebook or Google credentials. This is one of the routes we have taken at Mila: every account is checked at signup. Linking a social account to a Google and Facebook account makes it a lot more difficult to represent false identities and serves as a way to verify that a person is actually who they say they are.

Profile Pictures, Biographies, and Other Trust Builders

Similar to linking to a Facebook account, kitting out a profile with a picture and some personal-sounding words go a long way to humanizing the person on the other end. Uber, the personal car-hailing service, shows a profile picture for each of their drivers. Not only does this help with making sure you get in the right car, but makes the service feel more human and personal as well.

Ratings

Ratings also can go a long way to creating a sense of security for apprehensive users. Online commerce pioneer Ebay’s rating system is notoriously important and taken very seriously by the many people who make a living selling items on the service. In buyers, the rating instills confidence: if this seller has sold hundreds of items and received a good rating, it stands to reason that they will continue! For sellers, buyer ratings are also useful guarantees that they will receive payment in a timely manner. This two-way rating system is one of the internet’s most robust examples of community-sourced verification.

Real-time Identity Verification

For some applications, truly robust and legally-binding verification systems are necessary. This is usually the case for online banking and other activities with large potential for fraud. Services like IDnow and others offer ways to verify a user’s identity quickly and easily, usually via webcam. The user to be verified initiates a video call with a technician. Once visually connected, the user presents his or her photo ID or passport to the webcam, turning it side to side to reveal security features. This, combined with the photo on the ID and the user’s video image, allows the technician to verify the user’s identity to a high degree of accuracy.

Online Communities are Built on Trust

When your community is your business, you can’t take any chances with trust. A community with a reputation of untrustworthiness will have a very difficult time keeping users, let alone growing. Implementing fraud-prevention strategies like Facebook or Google verification, profile pictures and descriptions, user ratings, or even real ID verification can help to add a layer of security and provide comfort for your users.

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