If statistics are any indicator, fraudsters are feeling emboldened. Juniper Research estimates that by 2020, the value of online fraud will reach $25.6 billion.

You know who else felt emboldened? Achilles.

In Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx and dipped his body into the water, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability. However, Thetis held Achilles by the heel, so it wasn’t washed over by the water of the magical river.

Achilles grew up to be a bold warrior who survived many great battles. One day, he was struck by a poisonous arrow which lodged in his heel, killing him shortly afterwards.

The term “Achilles heel” alludes to these legends and has come to mean a point of weakness, especially in someone or something with a strong constitution.

When it comes to fighting fraudsters on the battlefield, the email address is their Achilles heel. Here’s why:

Behavior and history is hard to fake

How long have you had your email address? If you’re like most people, quite some time. DMA Insight’s Consumer Email Tracking Study found that 91% of users have the same email address for at least three years. A full 51% of users have the same email address for over 10 years.

If a fraudster is able to compromise an account, the behavior will be much different than that of the account owner. Monitoring for velocity signals, which is the amount of transactions within a given timeframe, can highlight (and block) this activity.

Bottom line, “farming” email addresses to give an appearance of the history and presence as a legitimate customer is difficult and time consuming.

The email address is global…

We like to say that the email address is a global digital passport. Why? Unlike an address, driver’s license or even phone number, the email address works globally. It makes sense: how standard and global is your phone number and address? There are different carriers in different countries. And address formats vary from country to country.

Most fraud prevention tools that only analyze standard transaction data can be tricked by fraudsters using stolen IDs. In comparison to name or address data, email addresses have the same convention globally: user-name, “@” sign and domain. This makes the email address a perfect data point for robust risk assessment.

…and ubiquitous

Contrary to popular belief, the email address is not dead.

When was the last time you opened an account, registered a new smartphone or bought something online without an email address? It’s pretty much impossible to use the internet without an email address today. The email address is a key identifier used by websites, cloud services, and during transactions. It’s even used by operating systems such as Google Android, Microsoft Windows and Apple OS.

Plus, your customers are comfortable sharing it. Research shows that 73% of millennials prefer email for business communications. Which brings a larger issue into play: striking the delicate balance between a prudent level of fraud prevention and low customer friction.

A story of epic proportions: email risk assessment for fraud prevention

Email risk assessment is the process of using a commonly collected piece of data, the email address, as the basis for transactional risk assessment and fraud prevention.

Every time an email address is used, it leaves traces. Over a period of time, those traces add up to a multi-layered story. This story can be examined to assess the risk present in a transaction. How? By building a complete picture of the reputation and true identity of the buyer. When this information is available as an up-front layer of security, fraud managers are empowered with intelligence for accurate evaluation.

Plus, there’s less friction involved than other methods. Because when you stop a fraudster, that’s a one time loss. But every time you deny a perfect customer (or send them to manual review) lifetime value hangs in the balance.

We live in a customer-centric era. But the intelligence and history associated with an email address offers up a frictionless way to prevent fraud. That’s why the email address is critical piece of data in the epic battle against fraudsters.

Click here to discover how you can leverage email intelligence to stop fraud, approve more transactions and drive revenue.