Travel companies have survived a massive threat to their existence by learning to share sensitive data on a private cloud platform, writes our guest columnist JJ Kramer, Chairman of Perseuss Steering Group
A decade ago, airlines operated in the usual silos of secrecy. The competitor was always the enemy. The competitor was trying to eat the other airline's lunch. But gradually they realised they had a common enemy who was trying - and frequently succeeding - to eat everyone's lunch.
International fraud gangs, stealing and abusing credit card data, were repeatedly ripping off one airline after another. Profitability was plunging and the situation was getting worse. The need to share information about fraudsters, legally, became apparent to all operators.
Now in 2017, travel companies are in a much better place. They have identified that there are four key steps which industries must take to fight fraud. Curiously, they all involve trust.
1. Build trust in your peers
The fightback started with pairs of airlines sporadically meeting to swap experiences and known fraudster information. Personal relationships formed and the trust between them became the bedrock of further progress.
Among those pioneers was JJ Kramer, Chairman of Perseuss Steering Group. According to him, fraud thrives in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. People have to start the fight against fraud by building a new atmosphere of cooperation and confidence in each other. Essential to building that trust was people meeting in person, not online. Face-to-face meetings were vital.
2. Build trust in your platform
But things soon begin to grow and it was obvious that the use of technology was also necessary. Who could be trusted to build the infrastructure? Who would govern it?
The airlines eventually selected an independent IT company with known competence to build the platform. The platform had high levels of security and the user community was 'members only'.
Airline fraud analysts were able to submit data about known fraudsters and check suspect data against the database. Fraud was being identified and reduced.
3. Build trust in your data
The airlines can now tackle the small, but important matter of the data. Who owned it? Who controlled it? Was shared data owned by everyone, once it was pooled? Chairman of Perseuss Steering Group stated that it was commonly agreed that fraud data is owned by the company who submitted it and it can be deleted by them at any moment. This decision increased the community's trust in the platform because they knew they controlled it, not the other way round.
4. Choose leaders you know and trust
As the user community grew to over 100 companies and welcomed in non-airline businesses (like online travel agencies, railway and retail companies), the management team adapted itself. A Steering Group was formed. People chose representatives they had met in person, regardless of the size of the company they worked in. Personal contact was, again, an important aspect that was taken into account. As Chairman of Perseuss Steering Group mentioned, the Steering Group channels and prioritizes the development process and that is the proof that the users are in charge, not anybody else.
About Jan-Jaap Kramer
JJ has been involved in the battle against airline card fraud for over 15 years. In his previous role as Manager Cashier Department/Credit Cards for Dutch airline Martinair (a subsidiary of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) from 1999 to 2011 he was responsible for the security of the company's ecommerce and call centre passenger bookings. In 2011 he established his own consultancy company to help business and industry fight fraud. Soon after that he was elected chairman of Perseuss, the travel industry’s anti-fraud organization.
Perseuss is the global travel industry’s own solution to the battle against fraud. It was founded in 2008 by a small group of airlines and soon became an industry standard for data-sharing. Today, the community has participants from around the globe including airlines, travel agents, railway, and retail companies. Its flagship offering is an online shared negative database, recently updated to include email age verification and artificial intelligence. It also operates FraudChasers, an online forum for anti-fraud professionals. Perseuss plays a major role in cross-border police Action Days to apprehend fraudsters.