OPW INTERVIEW -- May 18, 2007 -- Kevin Greene is the CEO of Ireland's leading internet dating site, AnotherFriend.com. This is the second of five OPW interviews on the subject of scamming in the internet dating industry. - Mark Brooks
What kind of scammers do you normally encounter in Europe and Ireland?
Firstly, someone dies and they have stashed away $30 million and if you send over some money they can transfer the money into your account and you get 50%. These scammers will send messages to hundreds and hundreds of members. The second is the Russian angle. A girl develops relationships with a number of men on the site and basically tries to scam them for cash. “I’m trying to get my ticket to come over to Ireland and I don’t have enough money for the ticket,” etc. Those are the main two types of scams that we’ve come across.
Is scamming a serious issue?
For us, we probably catch it pretty quickly and if we don’t catch it pretty quickly our members will let us know. It’s more of a problem for customer support when we get a 100 emails in from our members saying that somebody is scamming. It’s also an issue if we catch a scammer and delete their emails. Then we have members saying, “I got a notification that I had this email in my inbox and its not there, where is it?” So from customer support point of view, it’s a lot of time but if we can catch it quickly it saves that problem.
Is it affecting your site’s reputation?
To a certain extent. Where we have some problems is in chargebacks because scammers will generally come in and pay straight away, then we get chargebacks. Obviously, we lose money and we get kind of fined for the chargebacks. Our gateway only allows so many chargebacks before they could possibly cut us off. That’s a big, big issue. Probably about 50% of the chargebacks tend to be from scammers.
So you could half your charge back rate if you didn’t have any scammers?
Yes. We would catch a lot of them but sometimes they actually come in and set up an account and upgrade and leave it for a month or two before they actually do anything with it. So it’s very hard to catch them at that stage.
Generally speaking what are you doing right now to combat scammers?
We have a number of different things that we’re doing. We block IP address based on location. Our membership primarily comes from Ireland and a certain percentage from the US, the UK, and Australia. We block pretty much the whole of Africa, Russia and a few other places. That certainly has reduced our chargebacks by 80%. Now people still get through because they could be in the US or whatever, which is a bit harder.
The other thing we do is we scan for certain keywords in the mail and if it matches the criteria we’ll stop the mail. The mail will never be sent but the person sending it thinks it is. They can see everybody but nobody can see them. I know a number of sites that are using that system and I would say it’s pretty common in the industry. If they’re in the ‘ghost table’ and they try to make a payment a page will just keep saying the card was rejected. We also have triggers. If an extreme amount of mail is being sent by a particular user. If its over a certain number of emails in a certain time period it rings an alarm bell somewhere.
What would you save if you could eradicate scamming?
If we had no system, it would be a lot of revenue. We have a pretty good system in here at the moment very few get through. What I would worry about is the problems that we would have with Mastercard or Visa.
How can the industry work together to combat scammers?
One is educating the users, but the problem with educating them is you don’t want to scare them either, especially if they’re new to online dating. I think it’s important that your customer service is pretty much on the ball and you have systems in place that minimize scamming activity. I think it would be great if there was a central resource whereby the industry as a whole got together. But the problem is anyone I’ve talked to is very secretive about what they’re doing. Personally, I reckon everyone’s doing the same thing but no one’s saying what they’re doing. It’s kind of surprising that people still fall for scammers. It happens though.