2011 Online Merchants Made Most Progress Against Fraud in 13 Years

SAN FRANCISCO — CyberSource, a Visa company (NYSE: V), today announced results of its 13th annual survey of eCommerce fraud.

The overall picture: merchants are making gains against fraud but the battle continues. The fraud rate by order (the percentage of orders that turned out to be fraudulent) dropped from 0.9 percent in 2010 to 0.6 percent in 2011—the lowest in the 13 year history of the survey. But the cost of combatting fraud continues to grow. Dollar losses were up, manual review continued to climb, and merchants reiterated their concern that fraud is becoming more difficult to detect. 27 percent of respondents said they are engaged in mobile commerce and initial indicators regarding fraud in that channel are promising.

"The continued growth in eCommerce is a welcome development for merchants and the economy overall," said Andrew Naumann, CyberSource Senior Business Leader, Fraud Management Solutions. "The bad news is that fraudsters took in a higher dollar volume, the first such increase we've seen since 2008. Our study shows merchants are working harder than ever to keep fraud in check, using more tools and reviewing more orders. Clearly the criminal element is growing more sophisticated."

Selected findings from the 2011 surveys

Equal or lower perceived risk from mobile commerce: 27 percent of merchants responding to the survey indicate they have made investments in true mCommerce channels (accept orders from a mobile app or mobile optimized browser). Among those tracking fraud rates in this comparatively new channel, the majority (92 percent) feel fraud is equal to or lower than that experienced with online orders.

Fraudulent order rate lower, fraudulent order value higher: The fraud rate by order dropped 33 percent, from 0.9 percent in 2011 to 0.6 percent. On average, merchants say 1 percent of online revenues were lost to fraud in 2011, a slight increase over last year's 0.9 percent. That translates to an estimated 2011 merchant dollar loss of approximately $3.4 billion.[1] This is the first time merchants have cited an increase in the fraud rate by revenue since 2004. The lower fraud rate by order, accompanied by higher estimated revenue loss, means fraudsters are stealing more expensive items --$250 on average vs. $150 on average for a valid order. Looking at fraud rates by category of merchandise, consumer electronics were the hardest hit by fraudsters, followed by digital goods. The former are among the most lucrative for resale, while orders for the latter are typically executed in real time, allowing little opportunity for further review. The largest merchants tend to have, year after year, the best results in fighting fraud, a reflection of those organizations' use of more fraud detection tools and human resources.

Merchants holding the line: The mostly flat estimates of fraud rate by revenue demonstrate merchant success in fighting fraud, but at a cost – they are using more tools and systems, and reviewing more orders. In 2011, merchants used an average of 4.9 fraud detection tools to automatically screen orders, compared to 4.6 the year before. Merchants with more than $25 million in annual online revenues used about eight tools in 2011 (vs. 7.4 in 2010). Manual review is an effective but expensive strategy—typically comprising 52 percent of merchants' fraud management budgets. Merchants that engage in manual review (75 percent of the sample), looked at 27 percent of their orders in 2011, up from 24 percent the prior year. To complete manual screening, merchants reported review staff accessed an average of 4.2 systems and information sources in 2011, continuing the upward (more expensive and time-consuming) trend seen since the 3.7 systems reported in 2009.

Scalability a growing concern: Most merchants (75 percent) say they foresee no increase in staffing going into 2012. Yet eCommerce continues to grow steadily, compelling merchants to work even harder to control their fraud management costs. Merchants in 2011 ultimately accepted 75 percent of the orders that they manually reviewed, of which 6 percent turned out to be fraudulent—ten times higher than the overall 0.6 percent fraud rate by order. These figures suggest better pre-screening and more reviewer training are called for.

International orders carry higher risk: Nearly 60 percent of merchants surveyed accept orders from outside of the U.S. and Canada, showing growing ease with the international marketplace. However, merchants are still taking a cautious approach, rejecting 7.3 percent of international orders (vs. 2.8 percent of orders originating in North America) – over 2.5 times higher. This prudence is warranted – the international fraud rate by order was 2.0 percent, over 3 times higher than the fraud rate by order for North American orders (0.6 percent). One quarter of respondents said their company had stopped accepting international orders altogether due to the fraud risk—50 percent of that group specifically citing Nigeria as a high risk area. Merchants looking to grow their international sales channel may need to employ additional tools to detect sophisticated fraud, such as global transaction activity modeling, website behavior analysis, device fingerprinting, and IP geolocation.

Survey methodology and details

The 13th annual CyberSource fraud survey was commissioned by CyberSource Corporation and executed by Mindwave Research of Austin, Texas. The survey was fielded September 13 through October 12, 2011, and yielded response from companies representing a total of $83.8 billion in online sales—24 percent of the total estimated online market for 2011 (325 qualified and complete responses). The sample was drawn from a database of companies involved in electronic commerce activities. Incentives to respondents included a summary of the research.

To obtain a copy of the survey results please visit

About CyberSource

CyberSource, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Visa Inc., is a payment management company. Over 390,000 businesses worldwide use CyberSource and Authorize.Net brand solutions to process online payments, streamline fraud management, and simplify payment security. The company is headquartered in San Francisco and maintains offices throughout the world, with regional headquarters in Singapore (Asia Pacific); Tokyo (Japan), Miami/Sao Paulo (Latin America and the Caribbean), and Reading, U.K. (Europe/Middle East/Africa). CyberSource operates in Europe under agreement with Visa Europe. For more information, please visit

[1] Based on an estimated eCommerce market size for the U.S. and Canada of $340 billion, multiplied by the reported online revenue fraud loss rate of 1.0 percent.

Global Corporate Relations Contact: Bruce Frymire CyberSource Corporation 415.932.2564


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