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Black Friday: Should we be worried about our transactions?

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend marks one of the busiest shopping periods in the UK. The tradition, which originated in the US, where it follows Thanksgiving Thursday, arrived in the UK a few years ago. This year, it falls on the 27th November. While many shoppers are getting excited about bargain deals, not all UK retailers are happy about it. Smaller businesses can struggle to fulfil orders and strip their stockrooms of goods that they could have sold at full price in December. Others simply want to avoid the chaos of overcrowded stores and the associated demands on staff. Asda for example, one of the first UK chains to embrace Black Friday, announced it wouldn’t be taking part this year.

The rise of e-commerce has meant that retailers are also facing increasing strain on their online channels as they struggle to cope with consumer demand. This year, internet sales over the 24-hour period are expected to surpass £1bn for the first time in UK history. While we’ve heard a lot about how retailers and consumers can stay safe during this period, what about the banks that facilitate the transactions? More online transactions mean more opportunity for fraudulent behaviour. Consumers are protected if someone steals their credit card details, and banks are the ones that end up paying the price. So how are banks protecting themselves?

Firstly, new and improved big data and analytic technologies mean that banks can now analyse massive volumes of data to look for patterns of fraud and financial crime, which can then be applied to current activity. By creating these highly accurate predictive models, banks can both recognise and prevent future fraud.  Many also have big data capabilities for analysing streaming data in real time. Using this technology, banks can see and analyse transactions as they occur, detecting fraud as it happens and stopping it in its tracks.

Another way to stay ahead of the game is to use risk based authentication to help distinguish legitimate user behaviour from suspicious activity within online transactions. This assigns a unique risk score to each transaction and, based on that score, allows financial institutions to escalate the authentication and ask for further details before processing a payment.  

For many businesses, Black Friday provides a unique opportunity to ‘cyber-stress test’ their capabilities, giving them the chance to measure how vulnerable their systems are when pushed to maximum capacity. As the use of big data analytics and machine learning for security gains traction, events such as Black Friday, which drive a large amount of traffic, are a great opportunity to validate the solutions.

Consumers themselves also have a role to play in stopping fraudsters cashing in on their behaviour. To help people stay safe online, many FS organisations are taking steps to educate their customers and staff on best-practice ahead of the rush.  Last year for example, Visa Europe released a set of tips for consumers. By using data science and advanced profiling tools, FS organisations are able to isolate at-risk areas and develop targeted awareness campaigns. Looking at campaigns from previous years, they’re able to look at the areas where awareness remains low and create tailored campaigns which target specific issues.   

Whether or not you’re a fan of Black Friday, the 27th marks the official start of the festive season for both businesses and consumers. It should be an enjoyable time, but it’s important to take steps to ensure that malicious online behaviour doesn’t ruin it.  



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