The People's Champ: Fraud Fighting with Karisse Hendrick
Karisse Hendrick is well known in fraud prevention circles. From “The Online FraudCast” to the CNP Expo to her personal consulting business, she has had a significant impact on the fraud fighting ecosystem. In addition to her depth of knowledge, she is refreshingly humble and kind, something you don’t always find with folks who rise up the ranks. About-Fraud had the pleasure of checking in with Karisse to chat her roots in fraud prevention, insight on trending topics, and advice to other women in fraud.
PJR: How did you get your start in fraud prevention?
KH: I fell in to it by accident, like with most people in fraud prevention. I worked for Bank of America Merchant Services in their call center before I became pregnant with my daughter. When I was ready to return to work, as a single mom of an 18-month old toddler, I applied to work in the call center of another merchant processor in my hometown, Merchant e-Solutions.
After a year on the help desk, I applied to be a part of the risk department. I was curious about that department and what they did. Working with merchants to reduce their chargebacks and looking at consumer behavior just based on transaction data became addictive for me. I realized this was a profession I wanted to pursue.
I went on to put the lessons I learned from the merchant processing side of payment acceptance to the test with two merchants, Bag, Borrow or Steal and Expedia before determining that my real passion was to help online merchants. The last seven years of my career has been dedicated to helping online companies reduce chargebacks and fraud as a consultant. I also simultaneously work to advance the e-commerce fraud & payments industry forward by creating content for in-person conferences, facilitating merchant-only events and as a co-host of The Online FraudCast.
I sometimes joke that I’m a “social worker for capitalism” because my passion is to help companies and fraud professionals, whether that’s through reducing their chargebacks through a customized reduction strategy, introducing merchants to each other, helping fraud fighters find a new job or through organizing a major fraud conference, CNP Expo.
PJR: When you first started speaking at conferences, what was the balance of men to women presenters?
KH: The first time I presented at a conference, it was in Las Vegas in 2010. I spoke about chargebacks, a topic that I knew mystified many merchants and still does. I had reduced chargebacks at Bag Borrow or Steal by 97% in less than 18 months and wanted to share my tactics with my peers. Fraud prevention as a field was much less diverse then. To my memory, I was the only female merchant employee on the agenda. It wasn’t uncommon back then to be the only female in the room for committee meetings or to only see one or two women in attendance at each session. I honestly didn’t think about it much at the time, but I have tried to do what I can to encourage women to present at conferences for which I have been in charge of the speakers and content. I also encourage women in our field to strive for upper management positions as well.
PJR: What advice would you give to women interested in fraud prevention but not sure how to develop a career in the field?
KH: Learn, learn, learn and network, network, network. That’s really my advice to anyone getting started in fraud. I honestly don’t think it’s as difficult for women to get started in fraud, as it is for us to move up past analyst roles or mid-level management positions. Anecdotally, I would say that’s one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from women in this industry: “How do I grow my career?”
Moving up really depends on a combination of factors including skill, your ability to quantify your achievements and your ability to get along with others, both in your team and in cross-functional teams. I have also observed, even in myself that most women have difficulty owning and sharing their accomplishments and achievements. No one will know how great you are if you don’t tell them. I think women have been conditioned not to brag, but instead of seeing it as bragging, I think we need to look at it as taking ownership of our accomplishments. That can mean speaking at conferences, presenting a “lunch & learn” about fraud to other departments within your company, writing an article or quantifying your accomplishments on your resume or in your performance review.
That said, I do believe there are some cultural issues internally in some e-commerce companies that can make it challenging for women to be considered for leadership roles. In those situations, I usually suggest to female fraud fighters to look outside of their company if they feel they can’t move up in their own company.
PJR: Besides conferences and industry events, how can we better foster collaboration amongst the “good guys”?
KH: Collaboration amongst the good guys is the most important, but most challenging part of fraud prevention as an industry. I have attempted to create online forums twice in my career. But both have had some challenges, and I know that not everyone feels like they can be very open on them, for various reasons. For a few companies that have established monthly phone calls or even a Slack channel with their competitors to discuss best practices and general fraud trends on a regular basis. I’ve made several introductions that have led to these monthly phone conversations or Slack channels, usually among competitors. I also think that LinkedIn is a good way to network with people in fraud. However, not necessarily the format to openly share fraud trends or prevention strategies. I wish I had a solution for fostering online collaboration It’s definitely something I have a lot of ideas around, but it’s a bandwidth issue for me at the moment, so I try to do what I can, when I can, but hope one day I’ll be able to do even more.
PJR: If you could go back and tell a younger Karisse something, what would you tell her?
KH: “Slow down, take care of yourself and don’t burn yourself out!” As a single mother, I felt like I had to work extra hard to prove myself. I worked extra hard to move my way up from call center representative to risk analyst to fraud manager, to program manager for the main trade association for online fraud in the world. I worked extra hard not just because of my humble background, but also because of my gender. It wasn’t uncommon for me to work over 80 hours a week for several years and to stress out about the meetings I wasn’t invited to or the passive aggressive e-mails I received.
Unfortunately, that caught up with me 5 years ago. I don’t often mention this, but I have a chronic pain disorder that now limits how hard I can work and has impacted my personal life in several ways. Had I slowed down and not worked as hard in those early years, I may not have the career I have now, so it’s a may have been an inevitable trade off. However, had I slowed down, I wouldn’t be in pain all the time and I would have more energy and stamina than I do now.
PJR: If women are looking for a mentor or guidance in their fraud prevention career development, what would you suggest?
KH: I don’t think mentorship has to be official. I’ve created mentorship programs in the past for events, but those were just for an hour, once a year. The best mentorship relationships I have, either as the “mentor” or the “mentee”, have happened organically. I think personalities and interests have to be compatible, and the mentor has to be open & willing to share, and the “mentee” should be open to learn. I also learn so much mentoring a few women and so I think that it’s highly beneficial for both people. In the age of social media, I think mentors can be found as simply as on LinkedIn. If there’s someone you see posting things you’re interested in and you see they’re a level or two above you in fraud, reach out to them! I think that our biggest strength as women and as fraud fighters is getting together to discuss fraud and learn from each other. No egos, just learning. The more you learn, the more you can do. The more you can do, the further you will go in your career.
PJR: There’s a lot of exciting innovation and growth in the fraud prevention industry. How do you keep up with all of it?
KH: I’m not sure that I do! However, I definitely try to keep apprised of the latest technology for online fraud prevention. I usually learn about newer companies either from merchants who have recently RFP’d new technologies, from walking the aisles of the exhibition halls at events and through reading articles. At times, because of my position in the industry, I also get contacted by new companies to provide a demo.
PJR: What women have inspired you in your professional career (in the industry or outside)?
KH: The women who came before me in online payments and fraud. There were very few women on the merchant side even just 10 years ago, but I feel like the ones that were they have “blazed the trail” for a lot of us to be more heard and welcomes than they may have been. That’s not saying that I haven’t experienced being talked to like a 12-year-old or having my ideas stolen or being propositioned at a fraud conference, because unfortunately. I have. That’s why I can only imagine that they had to deal with even more.