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Digital Fraud Wiki

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Network Analysis: Unveiling Fraud Patterns with AI

What is network analysis?

Network analysis is a branch of data science that refers to the study and analysis of complex systems of interconnected entities, often represented as nodes and edges in a graph. These entities (nodes) can represent anything from people to computers to entire organizations. The connections between them (edges) represent relationships, interactions, or dependencies.

There are two main types of network analysis:

  1. Social Network Analysis (SNA): Focuses on the relationships and interactions between individuals, groups, or organizations.
  2. Graph Networks: Mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects. Graphs consist of nodes (vertices) and edges connecting these nodes.

Key terms and concepts to know when understanding network analysis are:

  • Nodes – individual entities within the network.
  • Edges – also called links or connections, these represent relationships or interactions between nodes. In graphs, these can be either directed or undirected.
  • Graphs – representations of networks consisting of nodes and edges. The arrangement and connectivity of nodes and edges provide insights into the overall structure of the network.
  • Centrality – measures that identify the most important nodes within a network. Nodes with high centrality may play crucial roles in information flow, communication, or influence within the network.
  • Degrees – the number of connections a node has. Nodes with a high degree are well-connected within the network.
  • Clustering – the tendency of nodes to form groups or clusters based on common characteristics or interactions. This can reveal substructures within the network.
  • Path Analysis – studying the routes or paths between nodes in a network. This helps to understand the flow of entities within the system.
  • Community Detection – algorithms that identify groups of nodes more densely connected to each other than to the rest of the network. This helps in understanding the modular or hierarchical organization of a network.

How does network analysis work in fraud prevention?

Network analysis is crucial in fraud prevention, as it helps identify and analyze patterns of fraudulent activity within a network. By examining the relationships and interactions among entities, such as individuals, transactions, or accounts, network analysis detects anomalous behavior or fraud patterns.

Network analysis works in fraud prevention specifically to provide several important capabilities to fraud fighters.

Data collection

Collecting data on transactions, user interactions, and other relevant activities within the system allows the network analysis tool to accurately represent relationships between entities as a graph. In the graph, nodes represent important entities like users or accounts, and edges represent interactions or transactions between them.

Graph analysis techniques

Centrality measures identify nodes with high centrality that signal fraudulent activities or could be targeted by fraudsters to exploit the network. Anomaly detection algorithms use predictive analysis to identify nodes or patterns that deviate significantly from the norm. Any unusual transaction patterns or connections are flagged for fraud investigation.

Behavioral analysis

Analyzing past interactions and monitoring transactions establishes a baseline of normal behavior for each user. Deviations or anomalies from the established baseline indicate potential fraud and warrant further investigation.

Link analysis

Link analysis examines relationships and connections between entities to uncover hidden or indirect links between potentially fraudulent actors. By identifying common patterns of behavior or connections, link analysis can also piece together fraud rings based on their activity. This includes shared accounts, devices, or locations.

Community Detection

Community detection algorithms can detect fraud rings. Fraudsters often collaborate, and these clusters may represent organized fraudulent activities.

Real-time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring analyzes network data as it appears, creating the capability to proactively detect suspicious activities. Adaptive machine learning models tweak and improve based on new data, improving the system’s predictive analysis capabilities when identifying emerging fraud patterns.

Integration with other security measures

Network analysis is often integrated with other fraud prevention techniques, such as rule-based systems, anomaly detection, and identity verification to create a comprehensive fraud prevention strategy.

By leveraging network analysis in fraud prevention, organizations can gain a more holistic understanding of the relationships and behaviors within their systems, enabling them to detect and prevent fraudulent activities more effectively. This approach is particularly valuable in combating sophisticated fraud schemes that involve multiple actors and complex patterns.

Examples of fraud networks

Fraud networks can take various forms, and their structures may differ based on the type of fraudulent activity being conducted.

Credit Card Fraud Rings

Identity Theft Networks

  • Fraudsters collaborate to collect and use stolen personal information for various criminal activities.
  • Networks may involve those who steal identities, those who create fake documents, and those who use the stolen identities for financial fraud.

Phishing Networks

  • Crime rings operate phishing campaigns to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details.
  • Phishing networks can involve multiple actors, including those responsible for designing phishing emails, hosting fake websites, and monetizing the stolen information.

Online Scam Networks

Cybercrime Networks

  • Criminal organizations may collaborate on various cybercrimes, including ransomware attacks, data breaches, or bot attacks for financial gain.
  • Networks can involve hackers, malware developers, and those responsible for monetizing stolen data.

Types of fraud network analysis can uncover

Transaction and Payment Fraud

Network analysis can detect unusual patterns or deviations from typical transaction behavior, such as sudden spikes in volume, unusual transaction amounts, or irregular frequency.

Identity Theft

Identifying connections between seemingly unrelated identities that are part of a synthetic identity fraud scheme, where fraudsters create fictional identities using a mix of real and fabricated information.

Credit Card Fraud

Discovering clusters of transactions that are linked through common factors, such as compromised merchant terminals or shared stolen credit card information.

E-commerce Fraud

Detecting networks of individuals who collaborate to commit buyer-seller collusion, BNPL scams, chargeback frauds, and other e-commerce frauds.

Phishing and Account Takeover

Identifying networks involved in phishing attacks by analyzing the connections between phishing websites, email campaigns, and individuals involved in collecting stolen credentials.

Money Laundering

Uncovering networks involved in money laundering by analyzing the complex layers of financial transactions designed to obscure the origins of illicit funds.

Online Scams

Identifying networks involved in online scams, such as romance scams or investment fraud, by analyzing relationships among scammers, money mules, and victims.

Network analysis is particularly effective in identifying fraudulent activities that involve collaboration, coordination, or manipulation within a network of entities. By examining the relationships and patterns within these networks, organizations can enhance their fraud detection capabilities and take proactive measures to prevent financial losses and protect against various types of fraudulent schemes.

Can social network analysis reveal fraud?

Yes, social network analysis can be a powerful tool for revealing fraud, especially in cases where fraudulent activities involve complex relationships and collaborations between individuals or entities.

Social network analysis focuses on understanding the structure and dynamics of relationships within a network, and this approach can be applied effectively in fraud detection.

How do FIs use network analysis?

Fraud Detection and Prevention

Financial institutions leverage network analysis to detect and prevent fraudulent activities. By analyzing transaction data and relationships between accounts, they can identify unusual patterns, detect anomalies, and uncover connections indicative of fraudulent schemes.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance

AML regulations require financial institutions to implement measures to detect and prevent money laundering activities. Network analysis helps in identifying complex money laundering networks by examining the flow of funds across accounts and detecting patterns that may indicate illicit activities.

Customer Relationship Analysis

Financial institutions use network analysis to understand the relationships between customers, accounts, and transactions. This can lead to improved customer profiling, segmentation, and targeted marketing efforts. Analyzing customer networks helps in identifying valuable clients and potential cross-selling opportunities.

Credit Risk Assessment

Network analysis can be applied to assess credit risk by examining the relationships between borrowers, guarantors, and related entities. This helps in evaluating the interconnectedness of credit portfolios and understanding the potential impact of default or financial distress.

Operational Risk Management

Financial institutions employ network analysis to assess operational risks within their systems. By mapping out the dependencies between different operational components, they can identify vulnerabilities, potential points of failure, and areas where improvements are needed to enhance resilience.

Cross-Border Transactions Monitoring

For institutions involved in international transactions, network analysis helps monitor cross-border activities. It aids in identifying suspicious cross-border transactions, adherence to regulatory requirements, and compliance with international financial standards.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD)

Network analysis assists in performing more effective CDD by examining the relationships between customers, beneficial owners, and associated entities. This helps in verifying the legitimacy of business relationships and complying with regulatory requirements.

Network-Based Credit Scoring

Financial institutions may use network analysis to enhance traditional credit scoring models. By considering the creditworthiness of an individual in the context of their social and financial network, institutions can gain a more comprehensive understanding of credit risk.


In the digital age, financial institutions use network analysis to enhance cybersecurity efforts. Analyzing network traffic and communication patterns helps in identifying potential cyber threats and strengthening defenses against cyberattacks.

Financial institutions apply network analysis in fraud prevention, risk management, compliance, customer relationship management, and cybersecurity. The insights gained through network analysis contribute to more informed decision-making and the development of effective strategies to safeguard financial systems. Truly modern network analysis comes from having a powerful platform capable of both providing leading network analysis/graphing while being able to scale with your organization. To learn how DataVisor does this better than anyone in the industry, book a customized demo with our team.