Buy now, pay later: How nextgen financing platforms can survive the new frontier of fraud


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Purchase now, pay later (BNPL) financing reached document heights in 2021. A September examine by Accenture revealed some 45 million BNPL customers within the U.S. alone, representing greater than 300% year-over-year development since 2018, in keeping with the Pew Trusts. Ecommerce retailers are proving all-in on partnering with BNPL platforms to supply short-term financing to these clamoring for it – and clearly many are. 

However, as with all new monetary product, warning is prudent. BNPL schemes are little question proving profitable for fraudsters as a brand new fee fraud avenue. As BNPL attracts regulatory scrutiny, these platforms are at a crossroads. Might a well-devised threat technique, geared up with the suitable analytic guardrails, assist safe the way forward for this fee modality?

Nextgen layaway: BNPL outlined

BNPL is a short-term line of credit score provided on the level of sale, both in particular person or on-line. Quantities usually vary from lower than $100 as much as $10,000. Not like conventional credit score traces, BNPL accounts don’t require a full credit score examine, making it simpler for folks with no credit score, and even bad credit report, to get accepted.

Contemplate BNPL a modern-day layaway program. Just like the layaway plans first popularized through the Nice Melancholy, the patron pays in predetermined installments, as an alternative of paying the total quantity upfront. The massive distinction? This layaway reboot presents immediate gratification: the customer receives the acquisition instantly with out having to attend till it’s paid off. 

Retailers provide BNPL to draw new clients, notably the sort much less prone to abandon their carts and extra prepared to drop money on higher-ticket objects. Many BNPL service suppliers don’t even cost curiosity or charges, supplied funds are made on time and the remaining steadiness is paid in full. As a substitute, the service provider pays a share price on every transaction. 

This versatile fee mannequin has confirmed notably interesting not solely to millennials but in addition to Gen Z, essentially the most quickly rising client phase. Gen Z will quantity an estimated 78 million folks within the U.S. by 2034, comprising the nation’s largest era ever. Put in perspective, among the many one in 5 vacation customers who used a BNPL service in 2020, 22% of them had been Zoomers. 

With out regulation, a Wild West of fraud 

At the moment, most BNPL merchandise are unregulated by the Fact in Lending Act, so the BNPL panorama goes largely unchecked. Monetary losses are absorbed by the service provider or the platforms themselves. As a result of most BNPL platforms are VC funded, backed by deep-pocket traders with hearty threat appetites, fraud safeguards have tended to take a backseat within the rush to grab market share.

With out the suitable antifraud defenses, nonetheless, BNPL retailers and distributors threat dying by a thousand cuts – absorbing $100 expenses right here, $500 expenses there, growing en masse. Behind this potential “gradual bleed” state of affairs lurks two prevalent fraud sorts: 

  • Artificial identification fraud. BNPL suppliers are notably weak to artificial ID fraud. It is because many BNPL customers have little to no credit score historical past, and most BNPL providers solely make a “delicate pull” on the patron’s credit score. Put plainly, bogus customers with skinny credit score profiles are comparatively simple for fraudsters to manufacture.
  • Account takeover (ATO). A fraudster positive aspects entry to a buyer’s BNPL account and goes on a spending spree, typically with the intent of reselling the stolen items. ATO victims typically detect the fraud too late, as a result of the account holder isn’t instantly billed. 

Fraudsters are already exploiting the gaps between the retailers’ fraud prevention controls and people of their BNPL suppliers. For instance, some retailers sidestep their very own fraud prevention methods altogether, as a result of the BNPL supplier assumes the fraud chargeback legal responsibility. Savvy fraudsters rapidly discover – and revenue significantly – from such vulnerabilities in BNPL ecosystem.

The cumulative fraud losses might at some point drive BNPL suppliers to move a few of these prices onto the retailers or, finally, the account holders themselves within the type of charges and better charges. Both final result may trigger the fee choice to lose its luster – assuming the losses themselves don’t cripple or spell the tip of some BNPL platforms. 

Retailers and BNPL platforms alike should additionally take into account reputational tarnish of exposing clients to potential fraud.

Combating again

A strong fraud protection is greatest offense in opposition to BNPL fraudsters. At a minimal, BNPL service suppliers ought to incorporate digital/biometric identification verification and transaction monitoring capabilities into their platforms.

Identification verification is especially vital through the utility course of. Most BNPL methods make the sign-up course of easy, with the consumer importing paperwork to show their identification. By including each digital/biometric authentication and liveness checks, BNPL distributors could make their verification processes extra resilient with out introducing an excessive amount of friction.

After the brand new account verification course of, BNPL providers should shield in opposition to account takeover utilizing layered methods, equivalent to:

  • Implementing a risk-based, multifactor authentication and verification course of.
  • Establishing acceptable limits and including real-time account freeze capabilities.
  • Accumulating and analyzing data like consumer system information, geolocation and time of day in live performance with different authentication components.
  • Making use of machine studying (ML) fashions to occasion and transactional information to make sure correct anomaly detection.

On the service provider facet, retailers ought to take a eager curiosity of their BNPL suppliers’ antifraud capabilities. Furthermore, they need to increase them with their very own automated fraud detection instruments as an added layer of safety when attainable. Optimizing the client expertise is paramount on each side. Importantly, this consists of shielding their mutual clients from on-line grifters. 

The way forward for BNPL 

Along with the assistance of their retail companions, BNPL distributors can proceed to develop demand for versatile financing choices whereas defending shoppers – and their platforms – from fraud actions. They want solely apply the identical highly effective information evaluation instruments which have confirmed efficient by extra mature monetary providers gamers. 

Finally, a sturdy antifraud posture can do far more than shield clients and the BNPL platform’s backside line. In an more and more crowded house, embedding potent ML/AI fashions and layered fraud defenses may simply assist differentiate a BNPL platform from its rivals.  

Because the federal authorities indicators larger regulatory scrutiny and emphasis on client protections, every BNPL service supplier and retailer has a vested curiosity in proactively cultivating a reliable popularity. What they do in response to rising fraud dangers will assist form this business – and maybe decide if BNPL survives and thrives or goes the best way of layaway.

Thomas French is a senior fraud and safety intelligence advisor at SAS. 


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