Lessons From improve 2024: How Fraud, Identity, and Digital Experience Teams Are Fighting Back

Kelley Vallone
May 1, 2024

Last week, almost 200 fraud, risk, and identity professionals gathered in Charlotte to deliver a collective knockout punch to fraud. And from all accounts, the punch landed.

OK, I promise you this wasn’t the scene of a riot. This was improve 2024, Prove’s digital identity and fraud summit, featuring Fraud Fight Club, that hosted experts and thought leaders for a full day of discussions, insights, and collaboration about current trends, challenges, and solutions for accelerating trust in the digital era. The day offered a way for professionals to immerse ourselves into the increasingly complex world we all face with an eye towards fighting back. 

While the day provided a lot of intellectual stimulation, we certainly had our share of fun, too. To put it into perspective, improve 2024 delivered some pretty outstanding numbers, including:

  • 13 sessions , including an opening keynote from Theresa Payton, former White House CIO
  • 30+ speakers (thought leaders and subject matter experts from fintechs and tier 1 banks)
  • 100+ drives in the Simulator at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • 200+ coffees served at 2 coffee carts
  • 130 customers and prospects attended

The key themes of the event were fraud innovation, identity trends, and digital customer experience. Here are some highlights from the presentations and discussions that took place over the course of the day:

The impact of AI, deepfakes, and new fraud innovation

It’s clear that the emergence of generative AI has ushered in a new era of scams, challenging conventional notions of security and trust. Identity is no longer based solely on adequately answering, "Have you met this person?," but rather, with AI and deepfake technology, the answer can often be an erroneous and deceptive "yes." This shift has given rise to myriad sophisticated scams, from the grandparent scam to romance fraud, exploiting the very relationships we hold dear.

Theresa Payton, fraud expert, author, and former White House CIO, explained the implications of these advancements in the opening keynote, and how they extend far beyond mere financial losses. She described the profound reputational risk at stake for banks and financial institutions and how frontline staff often find themselves ill-equipped to navigate the delicate balance between empathy and vigilance when it comes to combating scams like romance fraud.

The rise of identity theft and the proliferation of money mules further compound the challenges facing the industry. In our first panel session, Erin Vertin (Head of Fraud Controls, ED at Morgan Stanley) and Karen Boyer (SVP Financial Crimes and Fraud Intelligence at M&T Bank) demonstrated how fraudsters can leverage generative AI to seamlessly bind stolen identities, accounts, and devices, traditional methods of detection and prevention are increasingly rendered obsolete.

Collaboration is key to address these threats. Reggie Whitley (VP Fraud Investigations & Support at Jenius Bank) and About Fraud’s PJ Rohall explained how financial institutions must engage with their vendors to stay abreast of emerging technologies and best practices. Manual document review is no longer sufficient; robust technological solutions are imperative to stay ahead of the curve.

Additionally, the convergence of AML (anti-money laundering) and fraud detection efforts is essential for a comprehensive approach to risk mitigation. Deepfake and voice risk assessments must become integral parts of the onboarding process, enabling institutions to combat synthetic identities effectively.

The fight against fraud in the digital age requires a holistic and proactive approach, encompassing technological innovation, strategic partnerships, and cross-functional collaboration. Only by staying vigilant and adaptive can we hope to outmaneuver the ever-evolving tactics of fraudsters and safeguard the integrity of our financial systems.

The current state of fraud

In a lively panel and current fraud trends, Mary Ann Miller (Fraud & Cybercrime Executive Advisor and VP of Client Experience at Prove), Matt Powell (EVP and Head of Financial Crimes at Regions Bank), and John Watkins (SVP, Fraud Strategy & Operations at Jenius Bank) explained what is really top of mind for fraud defense teams and provided some predictions that resonated deeply with the attendees. These included:

  1. Static data use in authentication is allowing fraud to proliferate: As fraudsters continue to exploit loopholes in static authentication methods, there's a pressing need for dynamic and multifactor authentication solutions to thwart their efforts.
  2. Speed and scale in fraud has opened "low-risk" products into new fraud vectors: The rapid evolution of fraud tactics means that products previously considered low-risk are now vulnerable to exploitation on a large scale. This necessitates constant vigilance and adaptation to stay ahead of emerging threats.
  3. What's old is new again with fraud: Despite advancements in technology, fraudsters often resort to classic techniques, underscoring the importance of robust foundational defenses and continuous monitoring.
  4. Fraudsters taking advantage of FOMO to instill fear into younger people to advance scams/fraud: The prevalence of social engineering tactics, such as exploiting fear of missing out (FOMO), highlights the need for enhanced education and awareness among vulnerable demographics.
  5. Fraudsters will steal anything... no longer low risk/high risk: In today's culture of fraud, no asset or demographic is immune, necessitating a comprehensive and proactive approach to fraud prevention.
  6. We are now in a culture of fraud: The upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created fertile ground for opportunistic fraudsters, making it imperative for businesses to remain vigilant and adaptive.
  7. Fraud fighters need to have support from executive-level management: Effective fraud prevention requires not only dedicated resources but also buy-in and support from senior leadership to implement necessary measures and allocate resources effectively.
  8. Open-source tools allow easy access to fraud and incentivize some people to act badly: The accessibility of open-source tools presents a double-edged sword, enabling both legitimate innovation and malicious activity, emphasizing the importance of responsible use and oversight.
  9. And some great advice - be curious, inventive, insightful... get things done!: In the dynamic landscape of fraud prevention, a proactive and innovative mindset is essential for staying ahead of evolving threats and driving effective countermeasures.

Better approaches are needed to combat fraud and scams

Unlike conventional approaches that rely solely on reactive measures to combat deepfakes, fraud fighters need to take a proactive stance by authenticating individuals through trusted means. Prove’s CEO Rodger Desai and CRO Scott Bonnell joined the stage and explained how Prove has established trusted devices as the key to identifying individuals and discerning legitimate activities. In their fireside chat, they discussed how mobile phones can be used with Prove’s products to verify the authenticity of users, which mitigates the risk of fraudulent transactions and interactions.

As they explained, Prove's vision extends beyond mere basic identification. By verifying the ownership of content, Prove empowers creators to safeguard their intellectual property and preserve the integrity of their work in an increasingly digital world. Rodger explained how we emphasize the importance of preserving personal security while navigating the digital landscape. In moments of crisis or heightened risk, Prove provides a "break-the-glass" solution, enabling individuals to assert their identity securely and assertively.

Central to this ethos is the concept of federating trust, transcending traditional consortiums focused on sharing negative information. Instead, Prove envisions a "circle of trust," where stakeholders collaborate to accelerate trust and empower innovators. Ultimately, Prove's vision is to tokenize the world, ushering in a new era where trust is not just a commodity but a cornerstone of the digital ecosystem, empowering individuals and organizations to thrive with confidence in an increasingly interconnected world.

Applying the lessons from improve 2024

The lessons learned from improve 2024 covered a lot of ground, but they explained the intersection of fraud prevention and digital customer experiences by emphasizing the importance of collaboration, innovation, and proactive strategies. By integrating insights from all of these incredible industry experts and leveraging cutting-edge technologies showcased at the event, organizations can enhance their fraud prevention measures while simultaneously optimizing the customer journey. 

To top off the day, improve 2024 ended at the Nascar Hall of Fame where attendees raced car simulators and continued connecting and socializing with colleagues. Some connections made new friendships and forged old ones. We're looking forward to bringing this global community of digital identity and fraud experts together again.

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