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Money Laundering and Meeting Up – A Recap

By Julian Wong October 28, 2016

Photo of Julian Wong

about Julian Wong
Julian is the VP of Customer Success at DataVisor. A proven leader in the realm of trust and safety, Julian developed scalable systems and teams for mitigating fraud and abuse at Indiegogo, Etsy and Upwork. Julian also led Google’s engineering team responsible for building algorithms to prevent fraud on its ad platform.

Money laundering. It sounds clean, but it’s a dirty business. According to PWC, “global money laundering transactions are estimated at 2 to 5% of global GDP, or roughly U.S. $1-2 trillion annually.”

aml-meetupAs attack techniques become more sophisticated, the landscape for money laundering is changing quickly. This means that the teams who detect and fight against it must be smarter, faster and more effective than ever.  On September 29 we held a meetup at DigitalOcean in NYC to take on money laundering, how it affecting some of our businesses and what we can do to get ahead of it. Joined by Zack Pumerantz, fraud manager at FanDuel, Richard Barbieri, manager of risk operations at Etsy and Patrick Murray, vice president of products at DataVisor, we talked about what we see in terms of both money laundering and fraud, as well as the technologies we are using to try and stay ahead of it.  

One theme that repeated over and over was the importance of Knowing Your Customer (KYC). As it becomes more difficult to figure out what is “bad,” as with labels and training data, the importance of knowing what is “good,” increases. This becomes the baseline against which everything else is measured, and potentially flagged.

Unfortunately, just knowing what is good and what is bad is never enough. As soon as we figure out what “bad” is, a fraudster will evolve. As soon as we figure out what “good” is, a fraudster will evolve as well.

Money laundering was a difficult issue faced by our particular panelists since the amounts being laundered are often small, but frequent, and don’t have the same flags or reporting requirements as larger schemes. Buying things for $20 or $200 is not as obvious or interesting to law enforcement as million-dollar real estate purchases, for example.

The other issue that seemed to dominate the discussion was account takeover attacks (ATO). As we’ve noted previously, the result of all of the breaches that dominate the headlines are fraudsters logging in to a normal user’s account, often those who have had normal patterns of behavior for years, and are up to no good. For those trying to protect their good users, ATO often leads to shutting down an account and going through a verification process to reset it, a headache for both the platform and the consumer.

If you’re interested in taking a look at what you missed, thanks to the folks at DigitalOcean, you can view the full Meetup here: 

Also, be sure to attend our next meetup on November 10 at the Pinterest headquarters. We’ll be joined by another panel of experts to look back upon the past year’s fraud challenges and trends, as well as visit perspectives on fraud predictions for the upcoming year. You can register here.


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