Airlines are getting a better handle on preventing fraudulent ticket purchases. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that as airlines become more successful at foiling fraud, “the fraudsters go after the next weakest link,” said Normand Schafer of Perseuss North America. That would be travel agencies, he added.
“We’re seeing fraudsters hitting agency and tour operator channels to bypass the fraud checks that airlines use,” Schafer said.
Began in Europe
Perseuss was born of an effort by a group of European airlines to tackle fraud.
The group includes some of Europe’s largest carriers. As the group expanded, it needed a way to handle huge amounts of data. The airlines partnered with IATA to create Perseuss, which is now used by more than 70 airlines.
Perseuss allows the airlines to share information about fraudulent activity, then identifies suspect transactions by comparing sales data to known instances of fraud.
Schafer got involved when he was looking for ways to reduce the vulnerability of his own online agency, cheapticketscanada.com.
Prevention tool for agencies
As of last year, he has been charged with increasing Perseuss’ presence in North America – not only among airlines but among travel agencies.
Large agencies and online operations can connect with Perseuss via an API (application programming interface).
For agencies that lack technology resources, there is a “light” version, Schafer said.
Flags suspicious bookings
“Most back-offices systems allow you to upload PNR data to an Excel spreadsheet,” Schafer noted.
Toward the end of the day, the agency submits the PNR data to Perseuss, which then looks for matches in its fraudster information.
The system flags suspect bookings, which the agency can then investigate further – or cancel – before the close of business.
No credit card info
Perseuss collects PNR information such as name, address, telephone number, email address and origin and the destination of a fraudulent ticket.
It does not store credit card numbers, a practice that is both a breach of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards and impractical. When credit card numbers are used for fraudulent purchases, the accounts are quickly closed.
Advice to agents
Small agencies that have close relationships with their customers won’t want to run checks on every transaction, Schafer said, but it’s always a good idea to check new customers.
Fraud doesn’t just happen online: It happens with bookings made over the phone and in person as well, he said.
“An agent in Alberta had a new client who booked $30,000 in tickets for a wedding party,” he said. “A fraudster will befriend an agent and become the agency’s best client. The chargebacks will come weeks or even months later.”
Agents who are most interested in fraud prevention tend to be those who have already been harmed, Schafer said. “We’re trying to get them not to wait until it’s a problem.”
A small agency would pay around $100 a month for a subscription. Schafer said the subscription would pay for itself by preventing a single incident.
Perseuss is offering two-week free trials; agents can sign up at: http://toronto-pfps.perseuss.com/.The company also is working with several consortiums to offer lower subscription rates.