Grab to expand anti-fraud team to 200 by end-2019 as fraudsters get smarter

Grab's move comes as three individuals in Singapore were charged in Court on Wednesday for alleged payments fraud involving carpool service GrabHitch.
Grab's move comes as three individuals in Singapore were charged in Court on Wednesday for alleged payments fraud involving carpool service GrabHitch.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Ride-hailing unicorn Grab will grow its regional anti-fraud team from 120 employees to 200 by the end of this year to better deal with the onslaught of fraud in the digital economy, the company said at a briefing on Friday (May 17).

The team will add more tech talent including data scientists, risk and operations analysts, and product managers to deal with the "end-to-end" nature of fraudulent activity, said Foo Wui Ngiap, head of trust, identity, safety and information security at Grab.

Fraud is a concern as Grab "goes into a platform play", necessitating better protections, said Mr Foo. "As we enlarge our footprint, this forms a strong fundamental for us to avoid a leaky boat," he said. The company has an internal benchmark to maintain its fraud rate under 1 per cent of gross merchandise value across all markets.

Grab's move comes as three individuals in Singapore were charged in Court on Wednesday for alleged payments fraud involving carpool service GrabHitch. The individuals are said to have made over 300 fraudulent transactions, resulting in a payment of over $5,600.

Between February and April, Grab detected at least 13 driver accounts with more than 2,000 fraudulent transactions amounting to more than $41,800 in losses, according to a statement by the police on Tuesday.

While declining to comment directly on the case, Mr Foo noted that fraudsters are growing increasingly sophisticated. In some regional markets, for instance, Grab has seen a "black market" for driver accounts, where fake accounts are sold to drivers who have been banned on Grab.

One of the biggest areas of fraud that Grab sees is incentive abuse, where drivers set up multiple accounts and pretend to execute many rides in cash, reaping bonus payouts.

 
 

Other fraudulent techniques include GPS spoofing - where drivers use fake location tools to simulate completed rides - and fake Grab apps that have been tampered with or obtained outside the official app stores.

While many of the fraud cases have been in the ride-hailing segment, the bad actors are "following the money" into other growing verticals such as food delivery, with examples of fraudsters setting up fake restaurants, Mr Foo added.

When asked if the recent GrabHitch fraud case in Singapore has impacted product strategy, a Grab spokesman did not respond directly, but said that the company takes a holistic view of implementing anti-fraud measures for all services.

"We also want to educate our users that we are doing a lot for them and they should feel a little safer on our platforms. In the past, we've never talked about it, and what people don't know, they don't see," Mr Foo said.