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Detecting organized eCommerce fraud using scalable categorical clustering
Online retail, eCommerce, frequently falls victim to fraud conducted by malicious customers (fraudsters) who obtain goods or services through deception. Fraud coordinated by groups of professional fraudsters that place several fraudulent orders to maximize their gain is referred to as organized fraud. Existing approaches to fraud detection typically analyze orders in isolation and they are not effective at identifying groups of fraudulent orders linked to organized fraud. These also wrongly identify many legitimate orders as fraud, which hinders their usage for automated fraud cancellation. We introduce a novel solution to detect organized fraud by analyzing orders in bulk. Our approach is based on clustering and aims to group together fraudulent orders placed by the same group of fraudsters. It selectively uses two existing techniques, agglomerative clustering and sampling to recursively group orders into small clusters in a reasonable amount of time. We assess our clustering technique on real-world orders placed on the Zalando website, the largest online apparel retailer in Europe. Our clustering processes 100,000s of orders in a few hours and groups 35-45% of fraudulent orders together. We propose a simple technique built on top of our clustering that detects 26.2% of fraud while raising false alarms for only 0.1% of legitimate orders.