Chargeback Management

Fighting Friendly Fraud with Ethoca Eliminator

Ethoca Eliminator

Friendly fraud chargebacks are the worst. They’re frequent, they can happen for all sorts of reasons, and customers who succeed with one tend to develop a taste for them. Fighting them works, but it can be challenging—you have to put together the right evidence to disprove whatever the customer is claiming and hope the banks see things your way. Issuing banks ask questions of their customers to steer them away from demanding friendly fraud chargebacks, but there’s only so much they can do. Wouldn’t things be simpler if they could just connect with the merchant while the dispute call is happening and get the inside scoop on the transaction?

New call-to-actionWhile this technology is available for Visa transactions through their Visa Merchant Purchase Inquiry program and for Mastercard via their Mastercom solution, the same service hasn’t always been available for the other card networks. The technology provider Ethoca, however, offers a service called Ethoca Eliminator that covers transactions from multiple card brands and can greatly reduce instances of friendly fraud.

For merchants who are looking to get a dangerous friendly fraud problem under control, this may provide just enough of an advantage to stem the tide.

Back Up—What’s “Friendly” Fraud?

A customer can request a chargeback any time they see a transaction on their bank statement that they didn’t authorize. This protects them from fraud and helps shoppers feel safe about using their credit cards in online ecommerce environments, where the threat of data breaches is always present to some extent.

“Friendly fraud” refers to the practice of customers disputing legitimate charges and falsely calling them fraudulent. Sometimes they do this by accident, because they don’t recognize the merchant descriptor on their bank statement, sometimes they do it because they have lost patience trying to arrange a return through the merchant’s customer service department, and sometimes they do it with the full intent to defraud the merchant.

Issuing bank representatives who suspect friendly fraud may try to dissuade customers from demanding a dispute, but in the majority of cases a customer who insists on a dispute will get the chargeback they want. Card issuers have to strike a careful balance by abiding by their regulatory responsibilities regarding customer disputes, while also working with cardholders to help resolve their concerns without the need for a chargeback. Friendly fraud is a large and growing problem for merchants.

How Does Ethoca Eliminator Work?

Eliminator can deflect disputes and friendly fraud in two ways: Customers can access detailed merchant data through their desktop or mobile banking app. This includes itemized digital receipts, account history, summary of merchant actions (digital account suspension, etc.), refund status and more. This information helps to instantly reduce transaction confusion – a leading source of friendly fraud. Alternatively, an issuer's customer service agent can use the tool to pull up merchant data when a cardholder calls in, and present evidence that proves the transaction was legitimate. 

Here’s how a typical scenario might play out: When a customer calls their bank to dispute a charge, the bank representative will ask some questions about the transaction to get a better sense of whether and how to escalate the dispute. While on the phone with the customer, the representative can log on to the Ethoca Eliminator portal to connect with participating merchants.

The bank submits a request for information about the transaction, and the merchant automatically responds back through Ethoca Eliminator with the requested details. 

The bank representative can then read back this information to the customer while they’re still on the line, hopefully jogging their memory and prompting them to accept responsibility for the transaction. Customers who are genuinely confused or forgetful will often decline to pursue the dispute at this point, and many customers who think of friendly fraud as an acceptable way to “game the system” will stand down if they get some pushback from their bank. The intentional fraudsters may try to take things further, but even they are on notice at this point that the merchant isn’t letting lazy attempts at fraud slide by so easily.

Used as intended, Ethoca Eliminator can help merchants hold on to their money, keep issuers from getting embroiled in invalid disputes, and provide immediate clarity for confused cardholders.

Should I Use Ethoca Eliminator?

Ethoca is a third-party technology provider, so to use Ethoca Eliminator, you’ll need to sign up for the product and pay for it. Is it worth it? That largely depends on the size of your friendly fraud problem. But, if you’re looking to reduce chargebacks, increase revenue, decrease false declines and improve customer experience, you should definitely consider it. 

If you’re getting a lot of friendly fraud chargebacks, it’s important to look carefully at your business operations and analyze them to see if there are things you are doing that make you more susceptible to friendly fraud chargebacks. Cryptic or outdated merchant descriptors are a major cause of avoidable disputes—customers see a confusing description on their statement and call their bank right away. Make sure you store name and a customer service telephone number are included in your merchant descriptor.

Merchants should also take a zero-tolerance attitude toward friendly fraudsters. Once a customer victimizes you, block them from making future purchases. Statistically, it is highly likely that they’ll try again, and why wait for third-party solutions to stop them at that point?

Even when solutions like Ethoca Eliminator are being used to good effect they are most successful when properly layered with a range of tools and coupled with good business practices. Whenever you’re making changes to get a chargeback problem under control, it’s important to get down to the root causes and build a comprehensive strategy that addresses the problem at all levels of the business.


We believe that when it comes to fighting chargebacks, everything is on the table. Ethoca Eliminator is a very useful tool that can greatly reduce inadvertent or casual friendly fraud as well as hostile instances.

Just remember that there are chargebacks that will slip past any tool or solution you have in place, and to keep your revenues safe and your chargeback ratio down, you must have the willingness and know-how to fight them. Chargeback management firms like Chargeback Gurus can help you choose the right third-party solutions while giving you the skills to make operational and procedural changes that will prevent disputes from happening in the first place.

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