The Weakest Link: Uncovering the Impact of Account Takeover Fraud


A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” or so the proverb tells us. A vital part in your business’s chain is each customer, but oftentimes a customer’s online security may be the weak link. A vulnerable  point in any chain is likely to break, causing a ripple effect that damages the whole structure.

Account Takeover (ATO) fraud exploits security weaknesses in a customer’s account or device, enabling bad actors to assume the role of the compromised victim.

This fraudulent account takeover is a threat to your business as it can be difficult to identify and even harder to recoup resulting losses. ATO transactions are forecast to amount to $25.6 billion this year alone.

What is ATO fraud?

In an account takeover, a fraudster gains access  to a real individual’s account with the intention of exploiting payments, online ordering and banking information. Various types of attacks result in an ATO:

  • Brute-force attacks:This technique is used to obtain information such as a username or email address, password or personal identification number (PIN). Automated software generates many consecutive guesses as to the value of the needed data in order to reduce the time it takes to force entry. Criminals may use brute-force attacks to crack encrypted data and sell it
  • Credential stuffing: In this attack form, which is a derivative of the brute-force attack category, a large number of breached username and password credentials are automatically injected into websites until they find a potential “match” to an existing, legitimate account.
  • Bot attacks: This attack occurs from malware that has been installed on unsecure boxes and routers across the web. It tests credentials using different IP addresses to find potential “hits” and then, over the next few days, attempts a few logins at a time in an effort to mitigate detection.
  • Social engineering: This tactic preys on human frailty. Deploying various media, including phone calls and social networks, fraudsters trick people into offering them access to sensitive information.

Terms to knowPerson typing on laptop to check account.






History of ATO fraud

Credit cards have been a preferred method for fraudsters to commit theft since the credit boom in the 1980s. The introduction of EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) technology in the mid-2000s thwarted the traditional means of stealing credit card imprints to replicate for fraud purposes.

During the same time frame, the advent of the mobile wallet and contactless payments presented a new venue for fraudsters. Seventy-five percent of card issuers believe ATO fraud will increase with the growing  reliance on mobile payments.

Impacts of ATO fraud

ATO fraud can result in irreparable damage to the relationship a business has with its customers who are the victims. Customers rely on the companies with which they do business to keep their account information safe.

When ATO fraud occurs, a customer may blame the business , even if the fraud came about  through a different means or myriad routes. This scenario results not only in the costs associated with repairing the ATO fraud damage, but also the increased marketing and sales costs to bring that customer back into your fold.

Identifying and preventing ATO fraud

Any industry that relies on digital account access is susceptible to ATO fraud. Dynamic data from a customer’s email address, unlike static data such as a Social Security number or physical address, can better identify customers and help provide the basis of an effective risk management strategy.

Emailage risk management technology is scalable for any industry and employs the power of network reporting to bring a level of collaboration needed to combat ATO fraud.

The Email Risk Score combines the power of the dynamic data associated with a customer’s email address and omnipresent machine learning to provide enhanced transparency and confidence in the account’s identity . This technology increases authorization speed while decreasing customer friction and minimizing the risk of ATO fraud.

The latest technology from Emailage, Portal 3, provides at-a-glance insights into all of your risk management strategies. Your risk management team can better monitor potential ATO fraud risks by  running the previous seven days of queries from every channel. The ability to synthesize data from many channels in one place improves accuracy while saving your team time and money.

Power chain

The strength of your business’s chain depends on all operations working together to create the best customer experience. Your products, marketing and customer service create solid links to connect you and your customers. Reinforcing the power of your risk management strategy to combat ATO fraud ensures these links will never break.

Learn  how the power of Emailage network intelligence can help your company outsmart ATO fraud. Visit to get started.