A global information and insights company reports that 3.6% of all global e-commerce transactions – and 2.9% of Rwandan transactions – over the Black Friday period (November 23 – 27), were potentially fraudulent. ALSO READ: Over 30% Rwandans targeted by online fraud, money scams This is according to new findings TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) released on December 7 highlighting e-commerce fraud that occurred during the start of the 2023 holiday shopping season, from the Thursday before Black Friday to Cyber Monday, a marketing term for e-commerce transactions on the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States. ALSO READ: Inside Rwanda’s fast growing e-commerce industry Black Friday – which was on November 24, 2023 – is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US. It traditionally marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US, when many shops [stores] offer highly promoted sales at discounted prices. TransUnion is a global information and insights company with over 13,000 associates operating in more than 30 countries including Rwanda. As noted, based on proprietary insights from TransUnion’s global device risk consortium, TransUnion determined that the average number of suspected digital fraud attempts on any given day during that holiday period where the consumer was located in Rwanda during the transaction was 31.8% more than the same period in 2022. ALSO READ: Tips on how to start an e-commerce business However, it was 31.3% lower than the rest of 2023 (January 1 to November 22).Where the consumer transacted from Rwanda, it is noted, 2.9% of e-commerce transactions during that period were suspected to be fraudulent. Fraudsters take advantage of holiday season TransUnion also determined that the average number of suspected digital fraud attempts on any given day during that period globally was 15% higher than the same period in 2022, yet 50% lower than during the rest of 2023. ALSO READ: What are the legal implications in e-commerce transactions? “Just as the holiday season drives consumers online to begin shopping for gifts for their loved ones, so does it become a destination for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of this time for their financial gain,” said Steve Yin, the global head of fraud at TransUnion. “Online retailers must ensure that consumers shopping their sites for the best deals are at the same time protected from fraud in the most seamless and friction-right way possible.” The study also revealed the suspected digital fraud rate for each day in the holiday shopping period for transactions where the consumer was in Rwanda during the transaction and globally. Unlike in 2022 when the Thursday of the Black Friday shopping weekend saw the highest suspected digital fraud rate of 4.9%, this rate was the highest on Saturday, November 25. As part of this analysis, TransUnion also determined the top indicators of fraudulent e-commerce transactions during the holiday shopping season globally. “This year, transactions per IP (triggered with an unusual volume of activity from a single Internet Protocol (IP) address to a customer’s site in a short time) and transactions per device (triggered with an unusual volume of activity from a single device to a customer’s site in a short time) were the leading indicators for potential fraud attempts,” it noted in a statement. Anecdotally, Samuel Tayengwa, the chief executive officer at TransUnion Rwanda, noted, “we hear that” payment card issuers tend to use a different model during holiday shopping periods to allow more authorisations to complete quickly. Tayengwa added: “It seems that a similar tactic is being used by retailers concerned that any friction may drive consumers away, reflecting the elevated competition and aggressiveness of retailers to ensure greater shopping volume.” Criminals look forward to this period of lax fraud controls As noted, criminal organisations look forward to this period of lax fraud controls. Knowing that guards are lowered, they commit account takeovers to empty loyalty points programmes and make purchases using the hijacked customer’s existing payment wallet, for example. For retailers that allow guest checkouts, it is noted, fraudsters will transact using stolen payment cards they have purchased from the dark web or have previously harvested from other data breach attacks. While online sales numbers for retailers are now known, retailers will have to wait and hope that fraud losses do not pile up. The challenge is that they will not know for some time; merchants will have to wait for an uptick in chargebacks, returns, and customer disputes before that becomes clear. “The upcoming holidays mark the biggest shopping season of the year for retailers, but equipping themselves with the proper tools to detect fraud at the first warning sign is a year-round priority,” said Tayengwa. “A critical way to minimise fraudulent transactions while at the same time protecting legitimate ones involves implementing holistic fraud solutions that can verify customer identity and authenticity at the very beginning of a transaction, including both account creation and login.” According to Yvette Uwimpaye, the CEO of Rwandan e-commerce platform, Murukali, to avoid falling prey to fraudulent e-commerce transactions, people should buy from well-known and reputable e-commerce websites and verify the legitimacy of the platforms before making transactions. She said: “They should also avoid making payments through unsecured channels or sharing sensitive financial information over email or unencrypted websites.” Uwimpaye said buyers should regularly monitor bank and credit card statements for any unauthorised transactions and immediately report any suspicious activity to their financial institution. As regards how Murukali protects the data of customers who buy online, she said the company adheres to data protection regulations and standards. “When you visit Murukali, you have to approve terms and conditions regarding data the protection policy. We also make sure we partner with trusted third parties regarding the data sensitivity to make sure our clients' data are protected and in good hands.” It is noted that TransUnion came to its conclusions primarily based on intelligence from its identity and fraud product suite, TransUnion TruValidate™, which helps secure trust across channels and delivers efficient consumer experiences. The rate or percentage of suspected digital fraud attempts reflect interactions which TransUnion customers either denied in real time due to fraudulent indicators or determined to be fraudulent after a manual review process—compared to all transactions it assessed for fraud.