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5 Lesser Known Risk Factors in Payment Fraud

When you’re analyzing payments to determine if they are fraudulent, what should you look for? Stripe Radar is great at blocking the more obvious fraudulent payments, and allowing the payments that are clearly not fraud, but what about the payments that are in between? There are a number of less obvious factors you can look at to determine whether a payment is fraud.

How to Decide if a Payment Under Review is Fraudulent

Here are 5 lesser known factors we’ve identified when working with clients of Streamhacker Technologies. We’ll describe each of these in more detail below

  1. History of adding & removing cards
  2. Specific fraud insights
  3. Fast plan upgrades
  4. Lack of product usage
  5. Multiple IPs and payment attempts

While this article uses examples from Stripe, these factors can apply to almost any payment platform.

History of adding & removing cards

When a customer uses multiples cards to make payments over a relatively short period of time, that’s a big warning sign of card testing. When combined with fast plan upgrades, multiple IPs, and lack of product usage, then you can be confident it’s fraud.

Much of the time, Stripe will show this behavior in the Related Payments section of a charge. You can see an example here.

Related credit card fraud payments in stripe

However, sometimes you need to go into the customer profile to get the full picture. In the Recent Activity section, you can see if the customer added a new card. Here’s an example of what it looks like when someone changes cards within ~1 day of signing up.

Recent stripe customer activity showing credit card changes

On its own, this is suspect but not necessarily fraud. However, if there’s more than 2 cards, that’s quite suspect. Also very suspect if the cards come from multiple countries. If you click on Show details for any of the cards, you can see the countries.

Credit card change history in stripe showing 2 different countries

Above you can see 2 different cards from 2 different countries. And in this case, the customer’s IP address was in a third country. Very suspicious behavior.

Specific Fraud Insights

On a Stripe charge payment, there’s a Fraud Insights button that shows you various fraud factors. Three that we’ve found to be useful are shown below.

Stripe fraud insights showing authorization rates for email

A low authorization rate and more than 0 declines associated with the customer’s email are significant fraud indicators. The name-email similarity match is a small additional indicator on top. These insights are most useful when combined with the other indicators discussed here.

Fast Plan Upgrades

A “fast plan upgrade” is when someone subscribes to the lowest plan of your service, then upgrades to one of your highest plans within a few minutes. This may be another form of card testing. Maybe your lowest plan is $10 and your highest plan is $100 – those are very different purchase amounts, and a card tester may want to find out if the card that works at a low amount can also be used for larger purchases. If the first upgrade attempt fails, and they switch cards to try again, fraud risk looks a lot more likely. These related payments show an example of this exact behavior.

Related credit card fraud payments showing fast plan upgrades

Here’s what happened:

  1. Attempted to purchase low level plan at $10, but that failed
  2. Switched cards and tried again, Stripe risk score was still 0
  3. One minute later, successfully upgraded to a higher plan, and got a risk score of 47, which Stripe still considers “normal”
  4. 1 day later, tried to upgrade again to an even higher plan, but that failed with a higher risk score

Note: 2 payments are showing as Refunded because they were successful until being refunded as fraud.

Lack of Product Usage

If a new customer doesn’t use your product much right away, that’s ok. But if they also change cards and/or try to upgrade plans without using your product at all, that’s suspicious. In Streamlining Stripe Reviews with Webhooks and Zapier I described how we helped a client highlight product usage metrics as part of their Stripe review process. Getting some product usage metrics into your Stripe charge metadata is very useful for fraud analysis, so you can quickly look at all your risk factors in one place.

Multiple IPs and Payment Attempts

Many people use VPNs and proxy servers for very legitimate reasons. And sometimes people are traveling. Just because the credit card country doesn’t match the IP country, or there’s a low authorization rate for an IP address, that doesn’t necessarily mean a payment is fraud. But when the IP address of a customer changes over a short period of time, and they make multiple payment attempts from multiple IP addresses, that’s unusual. Stripe’s Related Payments section helps to show this kind of behavior.


Deciding whether a payment is fraud can be tricky, and is not always obvious. But there are risk indicators you can look for, and when you see multiple indicators together, you can be more confident in a fraud assessment. Conversely, if you only see one of these indicators, then a payment likely isn’t fraud. Whatever your assessment is, take detailed notes. Stripe’s charge UI has a nice feature where you can leave a note for future reference – be sure to use this so you have a history of why you made a decision, and can revisit these decisions in the future, when you have more information.

Here are some helpful links from Stripe on identifying and preventing payment fraud:

If you think your team or company needs help managing payment fraud, contact Streamhacker Technologies to see what we can do for you.