FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to Internet purchasing or e-tail transactions and specifically to detecting fraud in such transactions when ordering products, services, or downloading information over the Internet.
- DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART
There is a continuing need to develop techniques, devices, and programs to detect and prevent Internet fraud. The present invention provides a method and a system for detecting and preventing Internet fraud by utilizing and analyzing a number of parameters to uniquely identify a customer and a potential fraudulent Internet-based transaction.
Many methods and systems have been developed over the years to prevent or detect Internet fraud. Today, to gain consumer confidence and prevent revenue loss, a website operator or merchant desires an accurate and trustworthy way of detecting possible Internet fraud. Merely asking for the user's name, address, phone number, and e-mail address will not suffice to detect and determine a probable fraudulent transaction because such information can be altered, manipulated, fraudulently obtained, or simply false.
Typically, an Internet user who accesses a website for obtaining a service, product, or information, not only enters personal information as mentioned above, but is also requested to provide a credit card account number, expiration date, and billing address. An online criminal seeking to obtain goods, services, or access to information (text and/or visuals over the Internet) commonly uses someone else's credit card information to obtain the services or products during the transaction. To prevent such occurrences, websites, via credit card companies and banks, often check to see if the address on the order corresponds or matches the address for the credit card owner. Although billing and shipping addresses can differ, such as when someone purchases a gift for another, it is a factor to consider in the verification process. Additionally, merchants utilize phone number matching between that of the Internet order and the credit card company's database. Another commonly used technique for order verification is e-mail address verification where the website operator sends a message to the user's e-mail address asking the customer to confirm the order prior to executing the same. Yet, online thieves frequently use e-mail addresses from large portal sites that offer free e-mail accounts. These e-mail addresses are easily disposable and make it harder for the website operator to identify the fraudulent customer before executing the transaction.
More sophisticated websites now capture a variety of parameters from the user known as Common Gateway Interface parameters (CGI parameters). These parameters commonly include non-personal information such as a user's Internet Protocol Address (IP Address). Every computer connected to the Internet is assigned a unique number known as its Internet Protocol (IP) Address. Much like a phone number in a home or office, an IP address can be used to identify the specific user or at least the particular computer used for an Internet transaction. In addition, since these numbers are usually assigned in country-based blocks, an IP address can often be used to identify the country from which a computer is connected to the Internet. Yet, IP addresses can change regularly if a user connects to the Internet via a dial-up connection or reboots their computer. Online thieves also have ways of scrambling their IP addresses or adopting another's IP address to make it nearly impossible for the website operator to identify the true user. Thus, websites typically use an IP address plus a further non-personal identifier such as a Browser ID (or user agent), a cookie, and/or a registration ID to try to identify a unique user and to prevent fraud in a second transaction.
A Browser ID provides the website operator with a wealth of information about the user such as the software being used to browse or surf the Internet. Additionally, the Browser ID includes information about the user's computer operating system, its current version, its Internet browser and the language. Thus, the Browser ID has valuable information for identifying a unique user. The Browser ID may also have more detailed information such as the type of content the user can receive; for example, this lets the website operator know if the user can run applications in FLASH-animation, open a PDF-file, or access a Microsoft Excel document. Yet, Browser IDs from different computers can be similar, as there are so many Internet users and thus many have similar computers with the same capabilities, programs, web browsers, operating systems, and other information. A cookie refers to a piece of information sent from the web server to the user's web browser which is saved on the resident browser software. Cookies might contain specific information such as login or registration information, online ‘shopping cart’ information, user preferences, etc. But cookies can easily be deleted by the computer's user, by the browser, or “turned off” completely so that the server cannot save information on the browser's software. Thus, cookies alone cannot serve as a unique identifier to thwart an Internet thief.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, what is needed is a method and system that overcomes the problems associated with a typical verification and fraud prevention system for Internet transactions particularly in the purchasing of services, products, or information by uniquely identifying each consumer. Then, when that “consumer” seeks a second fraudulent purchase, the website operator will detect the same and block the order or, at least, obtain more information to ensure the order is legitimate. The system should be easily implemented within the existing environment and should be adaptable and compatible with existing technology.
In accordance with the present invention, a method and system is provided for detecting potentially fraudulent transactions over the Internet. The method and system comprises obtaining information relating to the transaction from the consumer and combining this information with a unit corresponding to the change of time, a delta of time parameter, to create a unique computer identifier. If a future transaction involves an identical computer identifier, as described below, which was previously engaged in a fraudulent transaction, the website operator can choose to cancel the transaction, pursue legal action, seek further verification, or the like. By using information relating to the first transaction, such as the IP address and/or Browser ID, and combining it with the delta of time parameter, as detailed herein, the website host can more accurately preventively track fraudulent users online by comparing computer identifiers to each other. In so doing, an integrated fraud prevention system is provided which allows the website host, merchant, or the like, to accurately and efficiently determine the validity or fraudulent quality of a transaction sought to be transacted over the Internet.
Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide a method and system for improving fraud detection in connection with Internet transactions.
It is another object of the invention to utilize existing technological capabilities to prevent online thieves from making second fraudulent transactions.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE CHART
The above object and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention are readily apparent from the following detailed description of the best mode for carrying out the invention when taken in connection with the accompanying chart.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT AND THE CHART
The chart illustrates the versatility and accuracy of the present invention in weeding out possible fraudulent online transactions.
The present invention relates to a method and system for detecting potentially fraudulent transactions over the Internet. Various modifications to the preferred embodiment will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art and the general principles herein may be applied to other embodiments. The present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiment shown but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features described herein. It is to be understood that the website, its host, or operator does not have to be a merchant of goods.
Because computer users rarely personally change the internal clocks within their computers, the delta of time parameter will likely be the same (or within a range) for a computer every time that computer is used to conduct an online transaction with the same merchant even if the user disguises or changes the IP address. The Browser ID is also not likely to be changed, even by a consumer seeking to perpetuate a fraudulent transaction. Thus, the delta of time parameter (the difference between the time of day of the computer user's clock and the time of day on the website's server clock) is an important component of the computer identifier because it, along with the preferred Browser ID or other personal or non-personal information, is a good indication of the identity of a subsequent user on the same computer. The delta of time parameter also allows the merchant to potentially locate the computer in terms of a time zone, region, or country.
Once a merchant determines that a first fraudulent transaction may have been made, the merchant can flag the customer's computer identifier, i.e. Browser ID and delta of time. In a preferred embodiment, the computer identifier will include at least its delta of time and Browser ID, but may also include other personal and/or non-personal information. Then, the matching parameter can be used to identify a subsequent transaction which reveals a user with an identical set of computer identifiers. The matching is typically implemented by software, for example, on a hard disk, floppy disk, or other computer-readable medium. After the comparison has been made, the software assigns a matching value to the pair of transactions based on the similarities between the first and subsequent transaction. The website server may inform the merchant of the matching value, cancel the transaction, inform the costumer of the status of their order, demand more information, or the like. The merchant may then choose its desired course of action.
A particularly important feature of the present invention is the merchant's ability to include, remove, and weigh each parameter within the computer identifier. For example, the merchant may choose to only use the delta of time parameter and Browser ID to form the unique computer identifier. Accordingly, the merchant may set the matching parameter to fit a level of comparison between the first and subsequent transaction. For example, since deltas of time may slightly change because of the differences in accuracy between the server and the user's computer clock mechanism, computer clocks and deltas may slightly vary over time. The merchant may set the matching parameter to include a range of delta of time, such as a few minutes, instead of an exact match. This way, even if the user's computer “loses time,” the matching parameter will still identify the subsequent transaction as a potential fraudulent one based on other information within the computer identifier.
Although the present invention has been described in accordance with the embodiments shown, one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that there could be variations to the embodiment and those variations would be within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Therefore, although the present invention was described in terms of a particular fraud prevention method and system, one of ordinary skill in the art readily recognizes, that any number or parameters can be utilized and their use would be within the spirit and scope of the present invention.