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How the Patreon Fraud Prevention team keeps creators safe from credit card fraud

While the internet has opened up new possibilities for creators to expand their audiences and to share their works — it comes with its challenges, as well. Every time you hear about a breach happening somewhere on the internet, that means that more information is available for sale on the dark web. In 2018 alone, the top 21 breaches across the internet compromised the information of over 3 billion customers.

What does this mean for creators on Patreon? Unfortunately, there’s the possibility of fake patrons using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters often try to use stolen credit cards to steal creators’ money, content, or sometimes both.

To proactively defend creators from these violations, our Fraud Prevention team is here to catch these individuals. With this blog post, we’d like to let you know what we do to prevent credit card fraud on Patreon. We’d also like to explain some of the challenges that our Fraud Prevention team faces, and give you tips on how you can help us fight fraud from bad actors, so that we can make Patreon a safer place for everyone.

Why fraud prevention is a difficult job

While fraud prevention is an important job, it’s not an easy one. Today’s fraudsters are more sophisticated than ever before — they’re constantly finding new ways to mask their fraudulent activity, which makes detecting and dealing with credit card fraud tricky.

Here are a couple things that make uncovering fraudulent activity on Patreon challenging for our teams:

  • Fake names: People use fake names on the internet for safety reasons (plus, showing your personality with a quirky name is fun). But, guess what? Fraudulent individuals also use fake names. This makes it difficult for Patreon to tell the difference between good actors and bad actors.

  • VPNs: People are concerned about watchful eyes so they use things like TOR or a VPN to hide their location. However, so do fraudulent individuals.

Why it’s important to fight credit card fraud on Patreon

Because of the advanced techniques fraudsters are using to hide their identities (and the fraud they’re committing on Patreon), our teams often have to investigate creators and patrons that we suspect of fraud on an individual basis. And, as you may imagine, this takes time.

In our quest to keep up with fraudsters, we implement rules to catch trends and anomalies, which can help our teams find and deal with fraudulent activity more quickly and efficiently. We are always working on these rules to keep them effective (and to remove the ones that just aren't working out).

One type of fraud these rules help us catch is credit card fraud.

For instance, bad actors sometimes use stolen credit cards to gain access to creator benefits. Obviously this affects the people whose credit cards were stolen. But it can affect creators too by inaccurately inflating their Patreon balance.

So what does that mean for you? That means that, if your creator account is being supported by a stolen credit card, the number you see in your Patreon balance will look bigger than it actually is (which can become quite a shock when it’s time for you to pay out).

The rules our teams establish help us catch this type of credit card fraud, so that the number you see in your balance is what you’re really going to get when you pay out.

How can the Fraud Prevention team's investigations affect your creator account?

Sometimes, due to the rules that we establish to fight fraud on Patreon, your creator account could be flagged, which may result in additional review by our Fraud Prevention team. As we noted before, sometimes we have to investigate a creator’s account that has been affected by fraud, so we appreciate your patience during this process.

It’s important to note that, to stop fraudulent money from leaving Patreon during this review process, your ability to pay out will be frozen until the matter is resolved. If, after this review process, we’re still unsure about your creator account, we will reach out to ask you for more information.

If you think we’re taking too long, please feel free to contact to us at [email protected].

How can creators help Patreon fight credit card fraud?

There’s one thing that you can do to help us fight credit card fraud on Patreon: you can keep us informed about strange activity on your creator page.

By letting us know about suspicious activity from patrons on your creator page, you’re doing two things. First, you’re helping Patreon be a safer place for everyone. And second, the information that you give us may help resolve and investigate cases of credit card fraud on your creator page more quickly.

Here are two scenarios to let Patreon know about:

  • Large pledges from new patrons: If you receive a large pledge from a patron you have never heard from before, let us know. We would much rather review that pledge before you pay it out.

  • Multiple pledges from patrons with similar names: If you’re getting pledges from patrons with very similar names (or they just seem plain suspicious), let us know. Unfortunately, bad actors with stolen credit cards will often test out the cards they purchased on the dark web on unsuspecting creators. By telling us about this information, it may help us more quickly wrap up these investigations.

If you notice any activity like the examples above, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Thank you for helping support fraud prevention on Patreon

Our mission is to fund the creative class, but it’s also to keep you safe. We’d like to tell you more about what our Fraud Prevention team looks for and the kind of things that fraudsters do on Patreon. However, in doing so, we would be helping fraudsters by giving them a road map on how to better get away with fraud on Patreon, and we don’t want to do that.

We hope that this blog post helps clear up what our Fraud Prevention team does, and why that sometimes results in a hold being placed on a creator account. If a hold is placed on a creator page, it doesn’t necessarily mean we think they did something wrong. It just means that we noticed something that seemed out of the ordinary associated with that account, and we’re looking into it. We know that these reviews are frustrating for creators, so we try to make them as quick and painless as possible so they can get back to doing what they do best — creating.

If you want to learn more about similar topics, be sure to check out the rest of our Trust and Safety series.