The differences between first- and third-party frauds: Part II

Published: September 8, 2009 by Guest Contributor

By: Kennis Wong

As I said in my last post, when consumers and the media talk about fraud and fraud risk, they are usually referring to third-party frauds. When financial institutions or other organizations talk about fraud and fraud best practices, they usually refer to both first- and third-party frauds.

The lesser-known fraud cousin, first-party fraud, does not involve stolen identities. As a result, first-party fraud is sometimes called victimless fraud. However, being victimless can’t be further from the truth. The true victims of these frauds are the financial institutions that lose millions of dollars to people who intentionally defraud the system.

First-party frauds happen when someone uses his/her own identity or a fictitious identity to apply for credit without the intention to fulfill their payment obligation. As you can imagine, fraud detection of this type is very difficult. Since fraudsters are mostly who they say they are, you can’t check the inconsistencies of identities in their applications. The third-party fraud models and authentication tools will have no effect on first-party frauds.

Moreover, the line between first-party fraud and regular credit risk is very fuzzy. According to Wikipedia, credit risk is the risk of loss due to a debtor’s non-payment of a loan or other line of credit. Doesn’t the definition sound similar to first-party fraud? In practice, the distinction is even blurrier. That’s why many financial institutions are putting first-party frauds in the risk bucket.

But there is one subtle difference: that is the intent of the debtor.  Are the applicants planning not to pay when they apply or use the credit?  If not, that’s first-party fraud. To effectively detect frauds of this type, fraud models need to look into the intention of the applicants.

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