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  • Partner Update
24 September 2021

The True Cost of ATO Attacks for Airlines

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, turbulence has set in for the airline industry, with mounting pressure to safeguard revenue, adapt to new customer preferences and transform their digital offering. Driving customer loyalty has emerged as a pillar for any airline wishing to remain competitive, with loyalty and rewards programs at the center of their strategy. However,  fraudsters are quick to capitalize on this trend: our 2020 survey revealed that 82% of merchants were significantly targeted by account takeover (ATO) attacks, while data shows that 1 in 140 logins in 2021 to-date was an ATO attempt.

With the rise of fraud-as-a-service, fraudsters do not need to invest a lot to carry out lucrative attacks. So, it is not a surprise that ATOs continue to grow in popularity within the fraud community. But what should merchants take away from this? To make the impact of ATOs more tangible, it is important to understand the four-faceted price tag of account breaches:

  1. Direct fraud costs
    It can be quite tricky to know if a chargeback or loyalty transaction resulted from an ATO. Riskified analysts undergo a minimum six months of training before they are qualified to tag chargebacks as resulting from an ATO. But a simple approach to estimating your losses is to use benchmarks. For example, in our recent survey, 42.6% of US-based merchants reported that more than 10% of their chargebacks were the result of ATOs, with that figure even higher in Europe. A more difficult estimation is loyalty fraud costs resulting from stolen rewards points transferred out of good customers’ accounts
  2. Customer service costs
    When customers have their accounts taken over, they are likely to call or email the merchant to complain. These claims are resource-intensive and hard to deal with, both for the customer and the agent. Riskified’s merchants informed us that it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 10 hours to resolve just one ticket!
  3. Loss of customer lifetime value
    More than half of customers (54%) say they would delete their account forever if it was compromised, with more than a third switching to a competitor. This cost is compounded by the fact that account holders tend to be the most loyal repeat customers and losing them for life can be a huge blow to businesses
  4. Losses resulting from brand damage
    These are the hardest to quantify, but the impact can be substantial. Customers tend to be vocal regarding security breaches, taking to either social or traditional media to deter future customers


The fallout from account takeover attacks is harsh: the breach of customer trust, damage to brand reputation, and loss of the most loyal customers can significantly impact an airline’s bottom line in the long term. To help quantify this loss, Riskified developed a worksheet that clarifies what is at stake. Our guide includes actionable insights to help airlines minimize financial and brand exposure to ATO attacks, without sacrificing customer loyalty.



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