Elena Emelyanova, Senior Payments and Fraud Manager at Wargaming, dropped by to share how they beat micro-transaction fraudsters.
Wargaming, developers of the tremendously popular World of Tanks games, amongst others, is a Belarussian video game company, now headquartered in Nicosia, Cyprus. Their reach, audience and presence are definitely global, with millions of players worldwide in the free-to-play category.
Elena Emelyanova, their Senior Payments and Fraud Manager has been at the company for close to a decade, and she had some great insights into how payment fraud works with micro-transactions.
Here are some key takeaways:
Their Games Were Created to Minimize All Fraud
The first big surprise: Wargaming only has a team of two to deal with fraud.
“I would really love to say that we are a huge team of fraud and payments managers, dealing on a daily basis with all the risk that we have. But the reality is that there are only two of us who are dealing with fraud at the moment. It’s me and my teammate, Olga.”
The reason? Their games were designed to avoid fraudulent attacks in the first place.
“There is no way to make fraud in-game because it’s created in the way that we can’t do cash out, you can’t resell anything. The only fraud that we are dealing with is related to payments and mainly cards. That’s the main risk.”
Their Fraud Attacks Are Seasonal and Predictable
When asked if Elena had noticed any patterns with attacks, this is what she had to say:
“I always need to expect some peaks in fraud when some peak times like Christmas or back to school or some special events are coming. For example, last year we were having a Christmas event which was absolutely different, absolutely new, and we saw a huge peak in fraudulent attacks (…) This year we’re going to have an absolutely new event and we will see again an absolutely new trend in the fraudulent attack. They never stop.”
Weirdly, COVID-19 Has Allowed People to Learn More About Fraud
“I would say that with COVID, it definitely brought some new trends. And what is curious that I see now is that people become more sophisticated and more educated. Even friendly fraud or real fraudsters, they turn to read. We have some cases where we see that people know how to fight chargebacks, or they know the restrictions from our side, from a merchant side. People who didn’t understand the difference between refund and chargeback. Now they know about it.”
… But This Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
“It’s a good one because people are educating themselves and it’s always good. But on the other hand for merchants, it’s a bad side because we are dealing now with the most sophisticated and educated people. They send us links, you know, links to the regulations in some customer support tickets, and that’s really amazing, you know. I actually admire such people who are actually reading such things in small letters, you know, which nobody’s really reading actually.”
Competition Is Working Against Fraud Managers
For Elena, one of the key challenges is that the competition between gaming merchants is actually stifling cooperation against fraudsters.
When you go to some forums and you google how to make fraudulent transactions or how to do something for Wargaming, it's very easy to do because fraudsters are sharing for free with everyone. They don't care about any competition. Click To Tweet
“For example, one merchant identifies some fraudulent scheme and then is able to find solutions. Their goal is to push this fraud to somebody else, right? If you get rid of it in your project, it goes somewhere else.”
“Fraudsters, on the other hand, have the advantage in that department.”
Not All Fraud Is Related to Making Money
Elena shares a fascinating story about dealing with a resilient fraudster who seemed unbeatable. One of the reasons they took so long to spot them? They seemed to be acting irrationally.
“The guy was hacking accounts all over the world. Well, we realized that this is fraud, but we found out he was a player, he was a gamer. And he actually contacted our customer support saying, guys, I’m going to proceed to hack your database and your other players up until you give me a press account. The guy was saying, I don’t care. Do whatever you want. I am not going to stop until you give me a press account because I want to be cool. I want to play the game. How can you fight with this guy?”
Key Takeaways – Fraud Is Inevitable and Sometimes Irrational
While Elena is doing an amazing job controlling payment fraud with such a small team and such a large amount of transactions, she’s had to concede that fraud will never be beaten. She can predict when it is likely to increase, but fraudsters are people, and people being irrational sometimes means that she has to face attacks that don’t make sense to her.
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Jimmy is the CCO of SEON and brings his in-depth experience of fraud-fighting to assist fraud teams everywhere.