Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fraud detection and User Interaction: why are Millennials slower?

A scientist was conducting an experiment with a fly. He pulled off one of its legs and set it down to see if it could fly. Conclusion: a fly without one leg can still fly. He pared off a second leg and set it down, saying "Fly!" Conclusion: a fly without two legs can still fly. He removed all the legs and set the fly on the palm of his hand, shouting "Fly!" Conclusion: a fly without legs can still fly, briefly, before crashing to the floor. He pulled off all the fly's wings and set the fly on the palm of his hand, yelling "Fly!" Nothing. "Fly!" Nothing. Conclusion: a fly without wings is deaf.

This was an old, lousy and a bit vicious joke even when I was a kid. It does, however, effectively demonstrate a long lasting truth: it is not the collected data, but rather how we interpret it, that renders its effectiveness in decision making. Errors range from confusing cause and effect (is it that customers who experienced fraud are more active, on average, or that active customers are, in average, more prone to experience fraud?) to gross segmentation causing severe false positives; a lot of these cases are triggered by analysts sticking to high level, big numbers rather than complementing their analysis with case-by-case review and customer engagement. Business intelligence is a very important practice, and we must use our tools wisely to reach the best possible conclusions to guide our decisions.

One interesting case of interpretation I found was regarding Javelin's 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report. Here's an excerpt from the link:

"18 to 24 Year Olds are Slowest to Detect Fraud – Millennials (consumers aged 18 to 24 years old) take nearly twice as many days to detect fraud, compared to other age groups, and thus are fraud victims for longer periods of time. Millennials were found to be the less likely to monitor accounts regularly and the least likely group to take advantage of monitoring programs offered by financial institutions. However, Millennials were the most likely group to take action such as switching primary banks or switching forms of payment."

Why is that? Well, looking for interesting opinions I came across this blog post. It suggests that Millennials are optimistic about the economy and feel invincible, being young, not imagining that fraud could happen to them. Interesting, but I don't buy into this kind of explanation, for two reasons: one, is that it's over simplistic in its description of Millennials' psych, but the second is that it puts a cap on our ability to engage with a group of users about their financials. It's just too important to let go: being able to engage with your user community to deter fraud will be a growing need for payment services in 2010 and beyond, and I claim that they expect this to happen. It just doesn't resonate with me that social networks and games can get you engaged but your bank or eWallet, the place where all your money is, can't. It's just a question of the right engagement model. What is the difference between those that work and those that fail? As a user myself, I don't feel like I have compelling interfaces that help me monitor my financials - and I log in to my online banking interface on a daily basis. There's just too much information, too many buttons and graphs to make sense. To add insult to injury, many monitoring programs (such as the lately advertized Chase debit card program) require users and parents to set their own monitoring rules. This reminds me of another area, online predator monitoring, which poses the same challenge to parents - you set the rules to monitor suspicious words in your child's IM. Seriously? We force the laymen to do our job for us? Can we really not provide a compelling, interactive, machine learning interface that provides an appealing user experience? I think we can. Especially if the alternative is accusing Millennials of being too optimistic.

Looping back to the beginning of the post, I'm just hypothesizing (or pulling the fly's leg, if you'd like). It's now a question of actually engaging with users and examining behavior to validate basic assumptions; something that we must do to make sure we understand the data we are getting. But this is my own hunch on Javelin's results. What do you think?

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Tal Guttman said...

Hmmm... I still think there's a difference between engaging your social network account or the status of your online farm, and between checking your finances. Your bank account has that "Morning After/Real World" aftertaste to it, that Millennials would just rather not deal with, even if it makes no sense to you and me.

Ori said...

I totally agree with your view on data interpretation. In my opinion, Millennials are slower on detecting fraud because:
1.) In many cases this age group still depends on parents support, reducing their level of concern.
2.) They usually earn less than other groups. In a free translation from Hebrew: "More assets, more worries"
3.) I would assume, since this is a relative low income segment. They are less likely, compared to other segments, to become fraud victims. Less cases in your close circle, less chances you'll get worried.

As for switching forms of payment, this is obvious: The Millennials are early adopters. If something doesn't work, they have no problem switching to the newest and greatest.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see a comparison of the 2010 study to any similar studies from 20 or 30 years ago. Is the ability to detect and report fraud higher or lower for the Millenials compared to Boomers or Gen X? We just cannot draw any conclusion concerning a generation without having a control group, which this study lacks.

Ohad Samet said...

To reply to all of you, the question I find most interesting is why are these people, who are elsewhere overly engaged, not engaged with their financials. It's hard for me to adopt a POV that hangs this on their psych since FB and Twitter are not experiencing the same problem. That's why a control group is less important - other social engagement tools are my control group, showing me that there's an issue here. I very much subscribe to Tal's POV - and that's exactly the question I keep asking myself, how can we remove the "aftertaste".

Richard said...

I think you're missing a key aspect of a control group. The other social media sites are just that -- social. How many of us would rather go to a party than reconcile our checking accounts? But the initial study was a point-in-time comparison of different aged groups. And at any point in time you select, the younger members of a population will have fewer assets, lower valued investments, and therefore less incentive to actively monitor their finances. That's why I'd like to see a comparison to past generations before drawing a conclusion that millenials are different from any other age group.