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Why First-Party Fraud Is the Biggest Threat to Small Business


First-party fraud is increasingly becoming a significant threat to small businesses. Unlike other types of fraud, identifying first-party fraud is challenging because the customers themselves may do this.

This type of fraud can take many forms, including false claims, fraudulent transactions, and deliberate defaults. The effects can be disastrous for small enterprises, potentially jeopardizing their operational and financial stability.

In this post, we will learn about the characteristics of first-party fraud and how it affects small businesses. We will also examine some effective strategies for mitigating it.

The Nature of First-Party Fraud

First-party fraud is distinct from other types of fraud because legitimate individuals or entities commit it. Perpetrators, such as customers, employees, or vendors, often have a pre-existing relationship with the business. It is, therefore, also called a friendly fraud committed by someone known to the businesses.

They exploit this trust to deceive the business for personal or financial gain. According to Ethoca, this type of fraud commonly arises due to the following reasons:

  • Transaction confusion
  • Misuse of the card
  • Service-related issues

This kind of fraud is very sneaky because it’s typically hard to catch. Offenders may employ sophisticated techniques to mask their actions. This can make it challenging for small businesses to identify and address fraudulent behavior until significant damage has already been done.

A recent Fintech Nexus story shows that one in three adults acknowledged engaging in first-party fraud. Moreover, around 40% claimed to know someone who has done so. First-party fraud is increasingly common among younger generations, with 52% of Gen Z respondents confessing to having done so.

Vulnerabilities of Small Businesses

For several reasons, small firms are especially susceptible to first-party fraud. Frequently, they lack the advanced fraud detection systems and resources available to larger firms. This facilitates fraudsters’ ability to exploit holes in their systems and processes.

Small businesses may also have fewer employees, leading to less oversight and segregation of duties. These processes are important for identifying dishonest behavior. Additionally, small businesses may rely heavily on relationships and trust, which fraudsters can exploit.

Therefore, they must balance satisfying customer demands and taking all reasonable precautions to prevent losses from friendly fraud. This is particularly important considering that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may face a 40% increase in “friendly fraud.”

Financial and Operational Impact

The financial impact of first-party fraud on small businesses can be severe. Direct financial losses from fraudulent activity include unpaid bills, chargebacks, and stolen money. These losses can quickly add up, straining the business’s cash flow and potentially leading to insolvency.

Even if a friendly fraud is proven, it may still be costly for the merchants who have to pay for the chargeback costs. For example, a CNBC news article states that the chargeback fees can range between $20 to $100. Thus, if the chargeback is proven, merchants must pay these fees. However, even if it is not proven and the money is not refunded, transaction fees of 1% to 4% are still to be paid.

First-party fraud can disrupt business processes and reduce efficiency operationally. It would be more beneficial to devote time and money to growth and development rather than dealing with the fallout from deception, and a company’s reputation may suffer serious harm as well.


A chargeback may result in a loss of up to 2.5 times the initial transaction value overall. Card networks and issuers may levy extra fees and penalties if the situation gets bad enough to push a merchant’s chargeback ratio over 0.9%. In the worst circumstances, merchant accounts may even be closed, and the retailer may be added to the MATCH list.

Strategies for Mitigating First-Party Fraud

Despite the difficulties, small companies can employ a number of tactics to lessen the chance of first-party fraud. One of the most effective measures is to leverage data analytics because the act is committed by friendly fraudsters. Analytics is the most ideal method to detect these frauds, as there is no other efficient way of identifying these fraudsters.

As noted in a PYMNTS article, the use of data and artificial intelligence is becoming a first line of defense. This can help uncover what’s going on in the background and how consumers are raising fraudulent disputes.

It is also advisable to set up strong internal controls. This entails putting in place segregation of roles, carrying out frequent audits, and utilizing fraud detection tools. These measures can help identify and prevent fraudulent activities before they cause significant damage.

Education and training are also significant. Employees at small firms should receive training on how to spot suspicious activity and the dangers of fraud. Potential fraudsters should be discouraged and employees can be encouraged to report any issues by promoting an environment of honesty and responsibility.

A further important tactic is to carry out exhaustive due research on clients, staff members, and suppliers. Verifying the identity and financial stability of these parties can help prevent fraudulent relationships from forming. It is imperative for small enterprises to institute unambiguous policies and processes pertaining to fraud management, which should encompass reporting channels and punitive measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Perpetrators of First-party Fraud?

When a client or user with authorized access to a system takes advantage of its flaws to perpetrate fraud, this is known as first-party fraud. Insiders, organized groups, and regular consumers can all be considered in this.


Third-party fraud, in which an outside party defrauds or misleads an organization, is different from first-party fraud.

What are First-party Fraud Red Flags?

First-party fraud does not always need identity theft or misrepresentation, but there are a few red flags to be aware of. For instance, previous chargebacks, big spending, multiple accounts of a customer, or suspicious transactions can indicate first-party fraud.

What are the Effects of First-party Fraud on Businesses?

Businesses, particularly those in the financial industry, can suffer greatly financially from first-party fraud. Financial losses directly impact a company’s bottom line, which in extreme circumstances may even result in bankruptcy. Frauds such as chargeback fraud and misuse of promotions can harm a company’s standing with other customers.

In conclusion, first-party fraud significantly threatens small businesses and affects their financial health and operational stability. Understanding the nature of this type of fraud and the vulnerabilities it exploits is important for small businesses. Small businesses and financial institutions can cooperate to protect against the growing threat of first-party fraud. This will ensure a more secure and prosperous future for all.