Chargeback Fraud: A Comprehensive Guide for Business

Know more about chargeback fraud and how to prevent it.

Published on January 24, 2024
Last Updated on March 21, 2024

In today's era of digital transactions, where most of our buying and selling happens online, chargebacks play a crucial role in protecting consumers. However, with the increasing prevalence of online fraud, businesses are facing significant financial losses, making chargeback fraud a growing threat to organizations of all sizes. Therefore, it is essential to understand, identify, and prevent this type of fraud. Businesses should implement robust strategies and advanced solutions to protect themselves from this growing problem.

What is Chargeback and What is Chargeback Fraud?

A chargeback is a reversal of a credit and debit card transaction provided by credit card companies to protect cardholders from unauthorized or fraudulent transactions. Chargebacks occur when a customer disputes a charge to their credit card issuer. The reasons for disputes can vary widely, ranging from legitimate issues, such as unauthorized charges or dissatisfaction with a purchase, to fraudulent intentions like chargeback fraud, an increasing concern for businesses.

Chargeback fraud, also called "friendly fraud," happens when a cardholder disputes a transaction they were fully aware of and benefited from. They claim that the transaction was unauthorized or the service was not provided while intending to keep the product or service and receive a refund. Essentially, they reap double the benefits without incurring any cost. According to the 2023 Chargeback Field Report, almost 75% of the surveyed retailers reported a 19% average increase in friendly fraud. Businesses must understand and effectively manage chargebacks to safeguard their revenues and maintain their credibility with credit card companies.

What are the Types of Chargeback Fraud?

The difference between friendly fraud vs chargeback fraud mainly depends on the intent of the consumer.  

Friendly fraud occurs when legitimate customers dispute charges they previously authorized, sometimes intentionally, other times due to forgetfulness or confusion. This could manifest as return fraud, where customers claim dissatisfaction with products in good condition or involve digital goods and services—like software licenses or online courses claimed as unused or subscription services enjoyed and then unjustly disputed.

This deceitful practice accounts for 61% of chargebacks, dealing a heavy blow to merchants who are projected to suffer losses upward of $100 billion by 2024. The challenges are multifaceted, with friendly fraud spanning tangible goods, digital products, and subscription services, marking it not only as a prevalent issue but also a complex one for businesses to tackle effectively.

This type of fraud is usually committed by malicious individuals who use stolen credit card information to make unauthorized purchases. This type of criminal activity directly affects businesses and can result in financial losses as well as damage to a company's reputation. It is important for companies to take steps to protect themselves from chargeback fraud in order to avoid these negative consequences.

How Chargeback Fraud Affects Businesses

Chargeback fraud can affect any business that accepts credit cards as payment, regardless of the industry. To minimize losses and damages when dealing with chargeback requests, it is essential to strengthen a business' chargeback protection services. Creating a robust system for chargeback fraud protection can help mitigate the risks associated with it.

Types of Businesses Affected by Chargeback Fraud

E-commerce businesses rely entirely on online transactions, making them vulnerable to fraudsters who exploit the anonymity of online shopping to engage in friendly fraud or even criminal chargeback fraud. Since these businesses lack the means for in-person verification, they become an easy target for charge disputes or refund requests. As a result, they suffer from increased operational costs and revenue losses. To mitigate these losses, they may consider exploring e-Commerce fraud prevention solutions or e-Commerce consulting.

E-commerce businesses are known to be more susceptible to fraud, however, traditional retailers are not exempt from this dilemma. Even transactions made in-store can be targeted. Fraudsters may attempt to make product returns, claiming that they were unsatisfied with their purchase, or they may use stolen credit card information to make unauthorized purchases. In both cases, the retailer is likely to suffer financial losses.

Businesses that offer services, such as travel agencies and subscription services, are exposed to the same risks. They are vulnerable to chargeback fraud when their customers challenge the charges on their credit or debit cards for services that have already been rendered, especially when the customer has already benefitted from the service. There have been many instances of fraud in the travel industry, and this situation can lead to financial instability and increased chargeback ratios.

How to Prevent Chargeback Fraud

It's important that businesses of all sizes are aware of this type of fraud and take chargeback fraud prevention measures to prevent it, even though some businesses are at higher risk than others. A multi-faceted approach can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to chargeback fraud.

When a business provides excellent customer service, the likelihood of customers filing chargeback requests decreases. A responsive and efficient customer service team that can quickly resolve customer issues prevents customers from initiating chargeback requests.

Having a detailed, accommodating, and simple return and refund policy can significantly reduce the number of chargeback requests from customers. Sometimes, customers choose to file chargeback requests instead of going through the return and exchange procedures, which can be confusing. By providing a clear and easy-to-understand process and communicating it effectively to consumers, you can reduce the likelihood of disputes and allows for chargeback fraud protection.

It is important to keep a proper record of chargeback data and analyze the reasons cited for chargeback requests and consumer behavior. This will help you identify instances of chargeback fraud, dispute these claims, and ultimately recover lost revenue.

What is Chargeback Management?

Chargeback management, sometimes called chargeback mitigation or chargeback prevention, is a strategic approach businesses employ to reduce the instances of genuine and fraud chargebacks.

For businesses, effective dispute management is a must. In addition to causing direct financial loss, chargebacks also result in operational costs, penalty fees, and reputation damage to customers and credit card issuers. In extreme cases, businesses can even lose the ability to accept credit card payments or have their accounts frozen due to high chargeback rates. 

It is crucial to effectively manage chargebacks, especially during high-volume sales periods like the holiday season. During such periods, fraudsters can exploit changes in buying behaviors and increased transaction volumes, making effective dispute management all the more important. 

What is the Chargeback Dispute Process?

Identifying the source of chargeback

To manage chargebacks effectively, one must understand their source, which typically falls into three categories.

Merchant Error: This refers to instances where the business or its employees make mistakes, leading to a chargeback. Some examples of merchant errors include charging a customer twice for the same transaction, failing to adequately describe a product or service, leading to a customer chargeback dispute, or not providing a refund when one was due.

Businesses can focus on staff training, conducting regular audit trials, and maintaining clear communication with customers to avoid such issues.

Friendly Fraud: Customers may have legitimately purchased a product or service but later claim not to have authorized the transaction or not received the goods or service to keep both the product and the refunded amount. 

Businesses can combat friendly fraud by confirming every transaction through an email receipt or text message, maintaining meticulous records, and employing advanced payment fraud detection tools. These processes can be outsourced to a third party that provides risk management services.

Criminal Fraud: This chargeback stems from fraudsters who make purchases using stolen payment credentials. Once the true cardholder becomes aware of the unauthorized charges, they initiate a chargeback. 

Businesses should implement secure payment processes, prioritize data security, and use fraud detection services to verify the card's authenticity before the purchase.

Implementing chargeback prevention strategies

Be it merchant error, friendly fraud, or criminal fraud, the next step is devising a robust system to prevent such instances from recurring. Before chargebacks become a thorn in a business's side, proactive prevention steps can drastically mitigate their occurrence.

Prioritize Security: Secure payment processes, online or in person, are critical to protecting the customers' payment information and their trust in your operations.

Clear Return and Refund Policies: Transparent and easy-to-understand policies ward off potential disputes arising from misunderstandings or dissatisfaction.

Keep Online Inventory Updated: Accurate, real-time inventory updates ensure customers know what's available, reducing chargeback disputes owing to unavailable items.

Provide Clear Product Descriptions: Detailed product descriptions help align customer expectations, reducing the perceived discrepancies between the online portrayal and the delivered product.

Provide Excellent Customer Service: Prompt responses to customer inquiries, swift resolution of complaints, and easy returns lead to satisfied customers who are less likely to resort to chargebacks.

Utilize Fraud Detection Tools: Robust fraud detection and prevention tools can identify suspicious transactions based on location, purchasing patterns, and unusual transaction amounts, allowing early action against possible fraud.

Fair Return Policy: A customer-friendly return policy can reduce product dissatisfaction-related disputes. Customers who find it easy to return unwelcome purchases are less likely to initiate a chargeback.

Monitor Transactions: Keep a continuous eye on transaction patterns to spot any unusual activity for possible fraud. Repeated purchases or unusually high order amounts warrant an investigation.

E-commerce Consulting: Optimize your e-Commerce strategies with expert consulting to increase efficiency and reduce chargeback risks.

Responding to chargebacks

Proactive prevention strategies are a strong defense against chargebacks. However, some may still slip through the cracks. When faced with a chargeback, managing it effectively and promptly is integral. Here’s a step-by-step guide on responding:

Step 1 - Chargeback Notification: The merchant receives a notice as soon as a chargeback is initiated. Act swiftly upon receiving a chargeback notification. Any delay can result in an automatic loss, costing the merchant the disputed amount and an additional chargeback fee.

Step 2 - Investigation: Conducting a thorough investigation into the claim is crucial to verify a chargeback’s legitimacy. This involves carefully reviewing the transaction details and the reason for the chargeback provided by the issuer. By doing so, you can determine whether the chargeback results from a mistake made by the merchant, legitimate fraud, or friendly fraud.

Step 3 - Evidence Gathering: Once the claim has been reviewed, the next step involves gathering compelling evidence to refute the chargeback. This can include anything showing the transaction was legitimate, and the goods or services were provided as agreed. For instance, this could be order confirmations, tracking information, records of correspondence with the customer, or proof of product delivery.

Step 4 - Chargeback Response: The next step is to draft a compelling chargeback response after gathering all the necessary evidence. This usually involves explaining why the chargeback is invalid and describing the evidence supporting this assertion.

Step 5 - Submit Response: The merchant must submit their response to the payment processor within the specified timeframe. The processor then forwards the response and accompanying evidence to the issuing bank. It is crucial to meet the given deadline, as failing to do so may result in an automatic loss of the chargeback dispute.

What are the Different Chargeback Rules and Regulations?

To properly manage chargebacks, businesses must understand key regulations like Regulation E3 and Regulation Z4. Reg E governs electronic fund transfers, allowing consumers to dispute unauthorized transactions within 60 days. Meanwhile, Reg Z applies to credit transactions, giving cardholders the right to dispute errors or fraud within the same timeframe.

Credit card networks also have specific guidelines for chargebacks. They define the chargeback dispute process, classify types of chargebacks, and dictate the necessary evidence for disputes. 

Navigating these regulations effectively and utilizing card networks’ dispute resolution mechanisms can bolster resiliency against improper chargebacks and future false claims.

Why Outsource Chargeback Management?

With the complexities and potential impacts of chargebacks, outsourcing the task is highly beneficial for businesses. By partnering with a proven expert with advanced tools and knowledge of evolving regulations, businesses can minimize the impact of chargebacks and ultimately enhance customer satisfaction.

Combining best-in-class global talent and Generative AI, TaskUs delivers effective, end-to-end solutions supporting the Issuer and Cardholder in the entire chargeback process. We deploy workflows, automation, and case management tools to quickly process chargebacks, validate transactions, and challenge when warranted. Our expertise in identifying chargeback fraud through a combination of AI and skilled resources helps clients minimize chargeback fraud losses. We provide these services across Fintech’s, E- commerce platforms and Chargeback Management CompaniesWith our effective chargeback management process, we’ll help you navigate the business landscape confidently, enabling your business to reach its full potential.

  • 1^2023 Chargeback Field Report: Friendly Fraud, First-Party Misuse Skyrockets to Pandemic Levels, Industry Survey Reveals
  • 3^What Is Regulation E in Electronic Fund Transfers (EFTs)?
  • 4^What Is Regulation Z (Truth in Lending)? Major Goals and History
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