Personal finance: How credit and debit cards flag fraud before it happens

(BPT) - Imagine a thief gets your credit or debit card and decides to go on a shopping spree. The thief tries to buy a flat-screen TV, a new computer and a diamond ring. You have no idea this is happening, until you get a phone call from your bank or an alert from your mobile banking app. How did they know to flag these specific transactions as fraud instead of other things you have purchased?

Artificial intelligence is at the heart of this process.

How you stay protected while shopping

A sophisticated anti-fraud detection system, known as Visa Advanced Authorization, uses artificial intelligence to look for possible fraud every time you insert, tap, touch or click to make a payment. It doesn’t know your name or exactly what you’ve purchased, but sees activities and patterns to learn what typical purchase behavior looks like.

How well does this work?

Advanced Authorization analyzed more than 124 billion transactions and prevented an estimated $23 billion in fraud in 2018 alone. That's no small feat considering there are more than 3.3 billion Visa cards available worldwide that can be used at nearly 54 million stores.

The moment you pay at a store in person or online, the artificial intelligence gathers hundreds of pieces of information about the transaction, analyzing more than 500 unique factors that may indicate fraud. Some of the information analyzed includes:

* Has the account been used at this store before?

* What type of transaction is it — in-app, contactless, chip or magnetic stripe?

* Is the spending pattern out of the ordinary for the account?

* If a purchase is being made in person, is the location of the store unreasonably far from the location of a recent in-store purchase?

In about a millisecond, this information is assessed and fraud is rated on a scale of 1 to 99. The higher the number, the more risky the transaction. The risk score is then sent to the cardholder’s financial institution, where the decision is made to either approve or decline the transaction.

Some people may long for the days when life was simpler and more analog. However, artificial intelligence is having a big impact in the effort to prevent credit and debit card fraud and is becoming more sophisticated every day. It’s fast, accurate and efficient, but also enables highly intelligent predictive analytics to help identify and prevent fraud before it can happen.

For many, this is yet another example of technology continuing to play a larger role in our lives — perhaps this time for the better.

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