The Secret Weapon Powering Ingo Money’s Virtuous Circle of Check Fraud Mitigation

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Bill Roese has been Ingo Money’s Chief Risk Officer since 2013.  Prior to Ingo, Bill was GM of FIS’s Certegy Payment Division and has led teams fighting transaction fraud for over 25 years.

The last few years have seen a host of new digital banking services, mobile wallets and more become available to consumers. At the core of this rapid growth in fintech-driven financial options is the concept of money mobility – that our money should move like information: freely and instantly between any account or destination.

It would be natural to assume that in this bold, new reality paper checks have become dinosaurs. A quaint memory for old timers who used to visit bank branches in person.

But the truth is that paper checks remain a significant source of inbound funds for consumers and small businesses alike, representing more than $25 trillion dollars in volume across 16 billion transactions in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve.

During the pandemic, the nature of these check transactions changed. The loss of in-person banking and other pandemic circumstances drove mobile check cashing to new highs. Here at Ingo Money, the volume of remote check cashing attempts rose 50% from 2019 to 2021.

These remote deposit and mobile check cashing capabilities have given new life to the check and made it a critical part of the money mobility formula. Any company offering a wallet or account for consumers or small businesses must be able to safely, securely and instantly accept money-in from a paper check.

But accepting checks is still risky business. The American Bankers’ Association estimates that check fraud tops $15 billion annually. And remote deposit and mobile check cashing are even more risky because they are check-not-present transactions.

Fraudsters try all sorts of devious ways to game the system: attempting to deposit the same check multiple times, depositing a check online then in-person, making photocopies of legitimate checks, and more. With remote deposit, banks can claw back money gained through fraud, but with mobile check cashing, the check is converted into instantaneous and irreversible funds.

Here at Ingo, we’ve seen it all. We’ve been providing mobile check cashing for decades for most of the major prepaid brands, PayPal, Venmo and others. It’s helped us build the industry’s richest source of check risk data on users of non-bank financial accounts. Our risk management expertise and data across the entire marketplace is why we can guarantee check funds for our clients. If we approve it, we stand behind it.

Our data and capabilities are so good, that we supplement well known fraud databases like Early Warning for clients whose customer base includes non-bank consumers. This same data and intelligence also power our deposit underwriting technology for companies that offer remote deposit capabilities but need check risk management services.  

One important ingredient in our secret sauce is human capital. Most providers rely solely on check scanning technologies to verify a valid check. While these fully automated options can be fast and effective when it comes to routine, valid checks, they are wholly inadequate for fraudulent circumstances.

But when you have money on the line, you cannot be right just some of the time. That’s why most solutions simply reject suspicious checks or those from unknown sources to minimize losses. And since traditional databases mostly track bank customers, an inordinately high number of underbanked customers are turned away because a provider doesn’t have adequate data on them or because their balances are too low for claw backs.

Ingo Money fills that glaring gap using a three-pronged approach: cutting edge machine learning and automation, a deep reservoir of proprietary experiential data, and our veteran risk team.

These three elements are constantly feeding and benefitting one another – good data from across the entire marketplace allows machine learning to have a higher, real-time approval rate, enabling teams to focus on high dollar, high risk or suspect transactions. In turn, every transaction delivers more data and helps the team better train our algorithms.

The result is a virtuous circle of check fraud mitigation.

Overall, roughly 30% of the checks in our system are flagged for risk review. Just by putting expert eyes on a check – a process that takes an average of 10 seconds – our underwriters can make an accurate determination of whether fraud is present. Even complex, high dollar check examinations only average a few minutes in review.

That ten seconds can translate into a 30% lift in the number of checks able to be accurately verified or declined on behalf of clients. An enormous boost to our clients’ bottom lines!

We’re seeing new clients that in the past artificially limited which customers could use remote deposit capture (in one case, prohibiting 95% of their customer base) or that banned remote deposit for the first 30-days of a new customer relationship, now able to offer check cashing to 100% of their customer base.

With Ingo Money, these same companies are instantly unlocking enormous revenue gains and deepening customer loyalty simply by leveraging our check solutions for more of their customers. In the era of money mobility, the value of the check is once again proving critical.

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