US20100280950A1 - Transaction authorization using time-dependent transaction patterns - Google Patents

Transaction authorization using time-dependent transaction patterns Download PDF

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US20100280950A1
US20100280950A1 US12/773,767 US77376710A US2010280950A1 US 20100280950 A1 US20100280950 A1 US 20100280950A1 US 77376710 A US77376710 A US 77376710A US 2010280950 A1 US2010280950 A1 US 2010280950A1
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transaction
likelihood
transactions
associated
time
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Patrick Faith
Kevin P. Siegel
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Patrick Faith
Siegel Kevin P
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Abstract

Systems, apparatus, and methods for authorizing a transaction initiated by a consumer are provided. A likelihood function can approximate a pattern of previous transactions and provide a measure of how likely it is for a transaction to occur as a function of time. The time of a current transaction can be used to determine a corresponding likelihood value of a likelihood function associated with the transaction. The likelihood value can then be used to determine a score for authorizing the transaction. As the likelihood corresponds to a particular time of a pattern, the score can be tailored to the current transaction and achieve greater accuracy.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • The present application claims priority from and is a nonprovisional application of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/175,381, entitled “SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR DETERMINING AUTHORIZATION, RISK SCORES, AND PREDICTION OF TRANSACTIONS” filed May 4, 2009, the entire contents of which are herein incorporated by reference for all purposes.
  • This application is related to commonly owned and concurrently filed U.S. Patent applications entitled “PRE-AUTHORIZATION OF A TRANSACTION USING PREDICTIVE MODELING” by Faith et al. (attorney docket number 016222-046210US), “DETERMINING TARGETED INCENTIVES BASED ON CONSUMER TRANSACTION HISTORY” by Faith et al. (attorney docket number 016222-046220US), “DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS USING TIME-BASED CONSUMER TRANSACTION HISTORIES” by Faith et al. (attorney docket number 016222-046230US), and “FREQUENCY-BASED TRANSACTION PREDICTION AND PROCESSING” by Faith et al. (attorney docket number 016222-046250US), the entire contents of which are herein incorporated by reference for all purposes.
  • BACKGROUND
  • The present application is generally related to processing consumer transactions, and more specifically to the authorization of consumer transactions.
  • Many transactions (such as purchases, wire transfers, and the like) are performed with reference to a payment account, e.g., a credit card account, bank account, or other type of account. These types of accounts are subject to fraud since the money to pay for the transaction is not directly provided, but is instead retrieved from the payment account. For example, fraud might occur when someone other than the credit card holder uses the credit card number to make a purchase.
  • A reduction in fraud may be achieved in different ways. For example, when a consumer initiates a transaction with a merchant using a payment account, the merchant can send an authorization request for the payment account to a payment processing network. This authorization request can be part of a check for fraud, as well as a way to ensure that sufficient funds are available to pay for the transaction. However, the methods for checking for fraud are often inaccurate or inefficient. For example, a transaction might be denied even thought the person/entity requesting the transaction is indeed the true account holder. Also, the time spent checking for fraud might be long, which discourages the use of the account.
  • Accordingly, it is desirable to provide more accurate and efficient processing of transactions.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY
  • Embodiments of the present invention can provide systems, apparatus, and methods for authorizing a transaction initiated by a consumer. In one embodiment, a likelihood function approximates a pattern of previous transactions and provides a measure of how likely it is for a transaction to occur as a function of time. The time of a current transaction can be used to determine a corresponding likelihood value of a likelihood function associated with the transaction. The likelihood value can be used to determine a score for authorizing the transaction. As the likelihood corresponds to a particular time of a pattern, the score can be tailored to the current transaction and achieve greater accuracy.
  • According to one embodiment, a method of determining authorization of a transaction involving a consumer is provided. Data associated with the transaction is received. The data includes a time T of the transaction. A likelihood function associated with the consumer and with the transaction is identified. The likelihood function approximates one or more patterns of previously performed transactions. Also, the likelihood function has a respective likelihood value for each of a plurality of times. A computer system determines a first likelihood value of the likelihood function, where the first likelihood provides a measure of a likelihood of a transaction occurring at the time T. A score is determined using the likelihood value and is adapted to be used to determine authorization of the transaction.
  • According to another embodiment, data associated with the transaction is received. One or more tables are identified as being associated with the consumer and with the transaction. Each table includes a plurality of values organized along at least one axis. A first axis of each table corresponds to a plurality of different time ranges. The values in each table correspond to a number of previous transactions occurring within one of the different time ranges. A computer system determines at least one value from each table, where the at least one value is for a time range in which the time T corresponds. A score is determined using the at least one value and adapted to be used to determine authorization of the transaction.
  • Other embodiments of the invention are directed to systems, portable consumer devices, and computer readable media associated with methods described herein.
  • A better understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention may be gained with reference to the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of a system according to an embodiment of the invention.
  • FIGS. 2A and 2B shows plots of transaction history of a consumer as analyzed according to embodiments of the present invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a flowchart of a method for authorizing a transaction of a consumer according to embodiments of the present invention.
  • FIG. 4 is a plot of a number of transactions at certain elapsed times between a final transaction (with key KF) and an initial event (with key KI) of a correlated key pair according to embodiments of the present invention.
  • FIG. 5A shows a table for use in determining a periodic probability function that approximates a pattern of transactions according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 5B shows a plot for use in determining a number of columns (buckets) of time or frequency to separate the previous transactions according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 6 shows an example of obtaining indicia of a similarity of transactions of one entity relative to a transaction pattern of another entity according to embodiments.
  • FIG. 7 shows a calculation of a likelihood that transaction patterns of a first entity are similar to transaction patterns of a second entity according to embodiments.
  • FIG. 8 is a flowchart of a method for determining a likelihood of events for which data has been received according to embodiments.
  • FIG. 9 shows a block diagram of an example computer system usable with systems and methods according to embodiments of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • Detecting fraud can save a lot of money in lost revenue. However, current methods are not accurate and/or are slow. Embodiments can provide systems, apparatus, and methods for authorizing a transaction initiated by a consumer. In one embodiment, a likelihood function approximates a pattern of previous transactions and provides a measure of how likely it is for a transaction to occur as a function of time. The time of a current transaction can be used to determine a corresponding likelihood value of a likelihood function associated with the transaction. The likelihood value can be used to determine a score for authorizing the transaction. As the likelihood corresponds to a particular time of a pattern, the score can be tailored to the current transaction and achieve greater accuracy.
  • I. System Overview
  • FIG. 1 shows an exemplary system 20 according to an embodiment of the invention. Other systems according to other embodiments of the invention may include more or less components than are shown in FIG. 1.
  • The system 20 shown in FIG. 1 includes a merchant 22 and an acquirer 24 associated with the merchant 22. In a typical payment transaction, a consumer 30 may purchase goods or services at the merchant 22 using a portable consumer device 32. The merchant 22 could be a physical brick and mortar merchant or an e-merchant. The acquirer 24 can communicate with an issuer 28 via a payment processing network 26. The merchant 22 could alternatively be connected directly to the payment processing network 26. The consumer may interact with the payment processing network 26 and the merchant through an access device 34.
  • As used herein, an “acquirer” is typically a business entity, e.g., a commercial bank that has a business relationship with a particular merchant or an ATM. An “issuer” is typically a business entity (e.g., a bank) which issues a portable consumer device such as a credit or debit card to a consumer. Some entities can perform both issuer and acquirer functions. Embodiments of the invention encompass such single entity issuer-acquirers.
  • The consumer 30 may be an individual, or an organization such as a business that is capable of purchasing goods or services. In other embodiments, the consumer 30 may simply be a person who wants to conduct some other type of transaction such as a money transfer transaction or a transaction at an ATM.
  • The portable consumer device 32 may be in any suitable form. For example, suitable portable consumer devices can be hand-held and compact so that they can fit into a consumer's wallet and/or pocket (e.g., pocket-sized). They may include smart cards, ordinary credit or debit cards (with a magnetic strip and without a microprocessor), keychain devices (such as the Speedpass™ commercially available from Exxon-Mobil Corp.), etc. Other examples of portable consumer devices include cellular phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), pagers, payment cards, security cards, access cards, smart media, transponders, and the like. The portable consumer devices can also be debit devices (e.g., a debit card), credit devices (e.g., a credit card), or stored value devices (e.g., a stored value card).
  • The merchant 22 may also have, or may receive communications from, an access device 34 that can interact with the portable consumer device 32. The access devices according to embodiments of the invention can be in any suitable form. Examples of access devices include point of sale (POS) devices, cellular phones, PDAs, personal computers (PCs), tablet PCs, handheld specialized readers, set-top boxes, electronic cash registers (ECRs), automated teller machines (ATMs), virtual cash registers (VCRs), kiosks, security systems, access systems, and the like.
  • If the access device 34 is a point of sale terminal, any suitable point of sale terminal may be used including card readers. The card readers may include any suitable contact or contactless mode of operation. For example, exemplary card readers can include RF (radio frequency) antennas, magnetic stripe readers, etc. to interact with the portable consumer devices 32.
  • The access device 34 may also be a wireless phone. In one embodiment, the portable consumer device 32 and the access device are the same device. For example, a consumer may use a wireless to phone to select items to buy through a browser.
  • When the access device 34 is a personal computer, the interaction of the portable consumer devices 32 may be achieved via the consumer 30 or another person entering the credit card information into an application (e.g. a browser) that was opened to purchase goods or services and that connects to a server of the merchant, e.g. through a web site. In one embodiment, the personal computer may be at a checkout stand of a retail store of the merchant, and the application may already be connected to the merchant server.
  • The portable consumer device 32 may further include a contactless element, which is typically implemented in the form of a semiconductor chip (or other data storage element) with an associated wireless transfer (e.g., data transmission) element, such as an antenna. Contactless element is associated with (e.g., embedded within) portable consumer device 32 and data or control instructions transmitted via a cellular network may be applied to contactless element by means of a contactless element interface (not shown). The contactless element interface functions to permit the exchange of data and/or control instructions between the mobile device circuitry (and hence the cellular network) and an optional contactless element.
  • The portable consumer device 32 may also include a processor (e.g., a microprocessor) for processing the functions of the portable consumer device 32 and a display to allow a consumer to see phone numbers and other information and messages.
  • If the portable consumer device is in the form of a debit, credit, or smartcard, the portable consumer device may also optionally have features such as magnetic strips. Such devices can operate in either a contact or contactless mode.
  • Referring again to FIG. 1, the payment processing network 26 may include data processing subsystems, networks, and operations used to support and deliver authorization services, exception file services, and clearing and settlement services. An exemplary payment processing network may include VisaNet™. Payment processing networks such as VisaNet™ are able to process credit card transactions, debit card transactions, and other types of commercial transactions. VisaNet™, in particular, includes a VIP system (Visa Integrated Payments system) which processes authorization requests and a Base II system which performs clearing and settlement services.
  • The payment processing network 26 may include a server computer. A server computer is typically a powerful computer or cluster of computers. For example, the server computer can be a large mainframe, a minicomputer cluster, or a group of servers functioning as a unit. In one example, the server computer may be a database server coupled to a Web server. The payment processing network 26 may use any suitable wired or wireless network, including the Internet.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, the payment processing network 26 may comprise a server 26 a, which may be in communication with a transaction history database 26 b. In various embodiments, a transaction analyzer 26 c can determine patterns in transactions stored in transaction history database 26 b to determine certain actions, such as authorizing a transaction or sending an incentive. In one embodiment, an incentive system 27 is coupled with or part of payment processing network 26 and can be used to determine an incentive based on determined transaction patterns. Each of these apparatus can be in communication with each other. In one embodiment, all or parts of transaction analyzer 26 c and/or transaction history database 26 b may be part of or share circuitry with server 26 a.
  • The issuer 28 may be a bank or other organization that may have an account associated with the consumer 30. The issuer 28 may operate a server which may be in communication with the payment processing network 26.
  • Embodiments of the invention are not limited to the above-described embodiments. For example, although separate functional blocks are shown for an issuer, payment processing network, and acquirer, some entities perform all or any suitable combination of these functions and may be included in embodiments of invention. Additional components may also be included in embodiments of the invention.
  • II. Identifying Patterns
  • Consumer activity can include transactions, among other things. Knowledge of a pattern of transactions of a consumer can allow better fraud detection and other risk analysis by providing greater accuracy in determining whether to authorize a transaction. However, the identification of a pattern can be difficult given the enormous amount of data, some of which might exhibit patterns and some of which may not.
  • As used herein, the term “pattern” refers broadly to a behavior of any set of events (e.g. transactions) that have a likelihood of repeating. In one aspect, the likelihood can be greater than a random set of events, e.g., events that are uncorrelated. The likelihood can be expressed as a probability (e.g. as a percentage or ratio), a rank (e.g. with numbers or organized words), or other suitable values or characters. One type of pattern is a frequency-based pattern in which the events repeats with one or more frequencies, which may be predefined. To define a pattern, a reference frame may be used. In various embodiments, the reference frame may be or include an elapsed time since a last event (e.g. of a type correlated to the current event), since a beginning of a fixed time period, such as day, week, month, year, . . . (which is an example of a starting event), before an end of a fixed time period, or before occurrence of a scheduled event (an example of an ending event). Another event can be certain actions by the consumer, such as traveling to a specific geographic location or browsing a certain address location on the Internet.
  • FIG. 2A shows a plot 200 of a transaction history or other events of a consumer as analyzed according to embodiments of the present invention. Plot 200 shows times at which each of a plurality of previous transactions 210 have occurred. As shown, time is an absolute time (e.g. date and time) or an elapsed time since an initial event 203. Herein, the term “time” can refer to either or both a date and a time of a particular day. These previous transactions 210, which occur before an end time 205, can be analyzed to determine a pattern 220, which can be a function that approximates when the transactions are likely to occur. As an example, an identified pattern can be used to authorize a current transaction, e.g. transaction 230.
  • The identification of a pattern can have many difficulties. If the previous transactions 210 include all of the transactions of a consumer and exhibit only one pattern, then the identification of a pattern may be relatively easy. However, if only certain types of transactions for a consumer show a pattern, then the identification can be more difficult. Some embodiments can use keys (K1, K2, . . . ) to facilitate the analysis of certain types of transactions, where a key can correspond to a type of transaction. The keys also allow identification of transactions as being relevant for a current task (e.g. associated with a current transaction).
  • For example, assume that FIG. 2A shows all of the transactions with key K1 (i.e. each of the transactions have the same key). A pattern analyzer can obtain time information by making a query for transactions only with K1 (or as another example a key pair <K1:K1>, as described below). The time information could be stored as a list of the transactions in chronological order. The occurrences of K1 transactions can then be analyzed (e.g. Fourier analysis or other functional analysis) to identify a pattern of the times and dates of these transactions. As shown, the transactions are modeled with a periodic function (such as a sine or cosine), which approximates the occurrences of the transactions. Parameters of the function(s) can be modified until a good approximation of the transactions occurring at peaks of the function(s). As shown, pattern 220 exhibits a relatively long wavelength with groups of transactions at the peaks of the pattern.
  • Adding to the complexity can be whether the path to a particular transaction has an impact on the pattern, e.g., a pattern that exists only when certain transactions precede or follow a transaction. Embodiments can store transaction data associated with a specific order of keys (e.g. K1, K3). In this manner, the data for that specific order can be analyzed to determine the pattern. The order of keys also allows the further identification of relevant transactions.
  • All of this complexity can be further compounded in instances where a certain path (sequence of two or more transactions) can have more than one pattern. Embodiments can use certain functional forms to help identify different patterns. In some embodiments, periodic functions are used, e.g., e−iwt, where w is a frequency of the pattern. In one embodiment, the frequencies are pre-selected thereby allowing an efficient determination of the patterns. Further, the frequencies can be identified by an associated wavelength, or wavelength range. Counters can be used for each wavelength range, thereby allowing a pattern to be very quickly identified by analyzing the values of the counters.
  • As an example of a different pattern, FIG. 2B shows a plot 250 of previous transactions 260 of a consumer as analyzed according to embodiments of the present invention. Assume plot 250 only shows K2 transactions. Time data only for K2 transactions can be identified as the specific time data can be stored associated with the key K2. Thus, a pattern 270 of previous K2 transactions can be identified by analyzing only the K2 transactions. Current transactions 280 can then be analyzed in view of pattern 270. If both previous transactions 210 and 260 were analyzed as a single set of previous transactions for a consumer, the different patterns 220 and 270 would be harder to identify. Other more efficient methods of determining patterns are discussed later.
  • III. Authorization of a Transaction
  • It is advantageous to authorize a transaction quickly while maintaining an accurate risk assessment of the transaction, e.g. via an authorization process. As mentioned above, once a pattern has been determined, a transaction can be predicted to occur, e.g., in a specific time window. Knowing when transactions tend to occur can allow an accurate determination of whether to authorize a transaction when one does occur. For example, if an authorization request is received for a current transaction at a time when the transaction generally occurs, it is more likely that the transaction is being initiated by the consumer.
  • FIG. 3 is a flowchart of a method 300 for authorizing a transaction of a consumer according to embodiments. In one embodiment, previous transactions (e.g. 210) are used to determine if a current transaction is to be authorized. In one implementation, transactions within a specific time period are analyzed, e.g., last year or all transactions before the current transaction. The transactions can also be filtered based on certain criteria, such that only certain types of transactions are analyzed. The transaction history can include valid and fraudulent transactions. All or parts of method 300 or other methods herein can be performed by a computer system that can include all or parts of network 26; such a system can include disparate subsystems that can exchange data, for example, via a network, by reading and writing to a same memory, or via portable memory devices that are transferred from one subsystem to another.
  • In step 310, data associated with transactions previously performed, e.g. by the consumer or other similar consumers (an affinity group), is received. For example, the data in the transaction history database 26(b) can be received at a transaction analyzer 26(c) of system 20 in FIG. 1, which includes a processor that may be configured with software. Each transaction can have any number of pieces of data associated with it. For example, the data may include categories of an account number, amount of the transaction, a time and date, type or name of product or service involved in the transaction, merchant name or code (mcc), industry code, terminal field (whether a card is swiped), and geographic location (country, zip code, . . . ). In one embodiment, a merchant could be a whole chain or a particular store of a chain. In some embodiments, the transaction data can also include video and/or audio data, e.g., to identify a person or a behavior of a person. The transaction data can be different for each transaction, including the account number. For example, the consumer can be identified with the account number and other account numbers of the consumer can be included in the analysis of the behavior of the consumer.
  • This data can be used to identify a particular type of transaction. In one embodiment, the data for a transaction is parsed to identify one or more keys, which are used as identifiers for a particular transaction. In various embodiments, a key can includes parts of the transaction data and/or data derived from the transaction data. A key could also be composed of results from an analysis of a transaction, e.g., whether the transaction is a card-present transaction or a card-not-present transaction could be determined from the transaction data and included in the key. In one embodiment, a mapping module can perform the mapping of the transaction data to one or more keys.
  • A key can be composed of multiple pieces of data (referred to herein as a key element). A longer key has more key elements and may be a more selective identifier of a type of transactions. Each transaction can be associated with different keys, each with a different scope of specificity for characterizing the transaction.
  • In step 320, transactions are optionally correlated with other transactions and events. In this manner, different transaction patterns can be identified for different types of transactions. Other events (e.g. start or end of a day, week, etc.) can be correlated to transactions as well. An event can also be a movement of the consumer from one state to another (e.g. from an at-home state to an on-vacation state). Different events can also be identified with keys. Herein, examples are used to described how keys are used to identify transaction types, but other suitable methods can be used.
  • In one embodiment, pairs of correlated keys (e.g. a key pair <KI:KF>) are determined based on whether transactions associated with an initial key (KI) are correlated with transactions with a final a final key (KF). A first (initial) event can be correlated with a later (final) transaction. The initial key and the final key may be the same or different from each other. For example, a transaction at one merchant may be correlated to a later purchase at another merchant, which might occur if the merchants are near to each other. In one embodiment, a group of more than two keys could be correlated together, e.g. a group of three keys can be correlated.
  • Two transactions can be correlated in multiple ways depending on how many keys are associated with each transaction. Thus, two transactions can contribute to more than one key pair, when the transactions are associated with multiple keys. For example, if an initial transaction is associated with two keys and the final transaction is also associated with two keys, then there could be four resulting key pairs. Also, a transaction may be correlated to another transaction only via certain keys.
  • In step 330, likelihood function(s) that approximate one or more patterns of when the previous transactions occur are created. In one embodiment, the likelihood functions of when the previous transactions occur are determined with a computer system, e.g., the transaction analyzer 26(c), which can be a subsystem or one apparatus. The likelihood function(s) can convey the likelihood of a transaction as a function of time and can include contributions from multiple patterns, or just one pattern. For example, pattern function 220 can be considered a likelihood function, and a combination of pattern functions 220 and 270 can be considered a likelihood function. In these examples, transactions are more likely when the function has a higher value, and thus more likely to lead to authorization. In other embodiments (described in more detail below), a higher value can be less likely to lead to authorization, e.g., when the pattern is of fraudulent transactions.
  • In one embodiment, pairs of correlated transactions (or other events) are used to determine a pattern, e.g., as times of final transactions related to initial events. The times can be stored as an absolute time and/or date for each transaction (e.g. in chronological order) or organized as elapsed times for correlated events of certain key pairs. The elapsed time may be the time between a transaction with K1 and the next transaction with K2 for the correlated <K1:K2> pair. Other data can be stored as well, e.g. data not included in the keys, such as an amount of the transaction. The elapsed time can effectively equal an absolute time if the initial event is the beginning of a time period.
  • In some embodiments, the time information is stored (e.g. in transaction history database 26 b) associated with the corresponding key pair. For example, a key pair identifier (e.g. a unique ID number) can be associated with the stored time information. As examples of an association, a key pair identifier could point to the time information, the time information could be stored in a same row as the key pair identifier, and the key pair identifier could be stored associated with the pointer.
  • In other embodiments, the time information for the key pair <K1:K2> can be stored in a database table that can be accessed with a query containing K1, K2, or the combination (potentially in the order of K1:K2). For example, a search for K1 and/or K2 can provide the associated identifiers. In one embodiment, a hash of each key of a pair is also associated with the key pair identifier, so that information for each key can be indexed and found separately. For example, hashes of K1 and K2 can be stored in a lookup table so the key pair identifiers (and thus the key pair information) can be easily found. A key pair table is an example of a likelihood function, or a group of likelihood functions, as the case may be.
  • In one aspect, storing time information in association with certain key pairs can allow the time information for specific types of transactions to be easily accessed. Also, such organization can provide easier analysis of the data to identify patterns for specific key pairs. The occurrences of the transaction can then be analyzed (e.g. Fourier analysis or other functional analysis) to identify a pattern of the times and dates of these transactions.
  • In step 340, data for a transaction at time T is received. In one embodiment, the transaction is a pending transaction that has not yet completed. As an example, payment processing network 26 can receive the data as part of an authorization request from a merchant. Payment processing network 26 can then perform a procedure to aid in the determination of whether to authorize this current transaction, e.g., by calculating a risk score or other score.
  • In step 350, relevant likelihood function(s) are determined. The relevant likelihood function(s) can be determined based on whether a likelihood function and the transaction data share matching values. In one embodiment, the matching can be performed using keys. For example, relevant key pairs can be selected, and tables or other data for a key pair can be obtained. In some embodiments, to determine whether to authorize the transaction (e.g., current transaction 230 in FIG. 2A), the relevant keys pairs are all or some of the pairs that include keys that match a key associated with the transaction. In one embodiment, the relevant key pairs are all of the key pairs that are associated with the current transaction as a final key. In another embodiment, the relevant likelihood function(s) can be for patterns of other entities, such as certain demographics or fraudulent patterns.
  • In step 360, one or more likelihood values of a relevant likelihood function(s) at time T are determined. In one embodiment, the likelihood values can be obtained from the tables for the relevant key pairs. In various embodiments, the likelihood value can be a number of transactions in a time range in which time T falls within, the probability of a continuous function at time T (e.g., as calculated from a value of one or more pattern functions at time T), or other measure related to likelihood.
  • In an embodiment where a current transaction has multiple keys associated with it, multiple likelihood values can be summed. For example, assume that a current transaction has both keys K1 and K2 associated with it. Thus, patterns 220 and 270 both might apply to the transaction. The likelihood values for likelihood functions of both these patterns can be summed, as the total likelihood for the transaction is affected by both patterns. In one embodiment, having a transaction associated with multiple keys can result in a summing to determine overall likelihood, and separating out the keys can allow the patterns to be more easily identified. In another embodiment, the likelihood values are analyzed separately, as mentioned below.
  • In step 370, the likelihood value(s) can be used to determine a risk score or other score, which can be used to determine whether to authorize a current transaction. In various embodiments, the score can correspond to a likelihood that a transaction is fraudulent, a likelihood that a transaction occurs at a specific absolute or relative time, or a combination of both.
  • In some embodiments, the likelihood value(s) can be input into a modeling function as part of the determination of the score. In various implementations, the modeling function can be an optimization function (e.g. a neural network) or can be a decision tree (e.g. composed of IF THEN logic that compares the likelihood value(s) to one or more cutoff values). In one embodiment, an optimization function can be trained on previous transactions, and thus can determine whether a current event (e.g. a transaction) fits previous patterns by a particular entity (e.g. a consumer or merchant) to a sufficient degree to perform an action (e.g. the authorization). The optimization algorithm can also be trained using previous patterns from multiple entities (e.g. a fraud entity or an affinity group). In another embodiment, the number of associated keys associated with a current transaction relates to the number of inputs into the modeling function. The relationship is not necessarily one-to-one as similar keys (e.g. ones of a same category) may be combined (e.g. same key elements, but just different values), but there may be a correspondence between the number of different types of keys and the number of inputs.
  • IV. Analysis of a Pattern
  • If a likelihood function for a pattern of when transactions occur is known, then the likelihood function can be used to determine a likelihood of a transaction occurring at a specific time, and thus whether a current transaction at the specific time should be authorized. For example, if a pattern (e.g. a pattern of transactions associated with specific keys) for one or more previous months is known, embodiments can use this pattern to determine whether a current transaction fits that pattern, and implicitly can conclude that the person initiating the transaction is the owner of a particular account. The patterns can be analyzed in numerous ways, and FIG. 4 describes some embodiments.
  • FIG. 4 is a plot 400 of a number of transactions at certain elapsed times between a final transaction (with key KF) and an initial event (with key KI) of a correlated key pair according to embodiments. Plot 400 can be considered as a histogram. The X axis is elapsed time between a final transaction and a correlated initial event. Any unit of time may be employed, such as minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even years. The Y axis is proportional to a number of transactions. Each bar 410 corresponds to the number of transactions at an elapsed time. Each bar 410 can increase over time as new transactions are received, where a new transaction would have an elapsed time relative to a correlated initial event. Note that more than one transaction-event pair can have the same elapsed time.
  • In one embodiment, the X axis can have discrete times. For example, only transactions for each day may be tracked. Thus, if the initial event was the start of a month, then the number of discrete time periods would have a maximum of 31 days. In such an embodiment, elapsed time values within a certain range can all contribute to a same parameter, and bars 410 may be considered as counters. For example, if the discrete times were by day, any two transactions that have an elapsed time of 12 days since a correlated KI event would both cause the same counter to be increased. In one embodiment, these counters are the time information that is stored as mentioned above. In some implementations, the time ranges do not all have the same length. For example, the time ranges closer to zero can have a smaller length (e.g. just a few minutes) than the time ranges further from zero (e.g. days or months).
  • A pattern 420 (an example of a likelihood function) can be discerned from the elapsed times. As shown, pattern 420 has a higher value at elapsed times where more transactions have occurred. In one embodiment, pattern 420 could simply be the counters themselves. However, in cases where the time intervals are not discrete or have a small range, bars 410 might have zero or low value at times that happen to lie between many transactions. In these cases, certain embodiments can account for transactions at a specific time as well as transactions at times that are close. For example, as shown, a function representing the pattern of transactions begins curving up and plateaus near the cluster 460 of transactions to form a peak 430. In one embodiment, each time point of the function can have a value of a moving average of the number of transaction within a time period before and after (or just one or the other) the time point. In other embodiments, function can be determined from interpolation or other fitting method (e.g., a fit to periodic functions) performed on the counters.
  • Indicia of the pattern 420, e.g., the function values, can be analyzed to determine when a transaction is likely. In one implementation, peaks of the pattern 420 are identified as corresponding to times when a transaction is likely, and a time window is determined from indicia of the peaks. In one embodiment, a width of the function at specific values or times may then be used as the time window. For example, a time window (e.g. a two day or 1.5 day period) of when transactions often occur may be determined (e.g. as may be done in 340).
  • The time window may be determined in any number of ways and potentially with varied criteria. In one embodiment, a full width at half maximum may be used, such as the width of peak 430. In another embodiment, the window (e.g., 440) above a threshold value 450 is used, or just part of this window, e.g., starting at the time where pattern 420 is above the threshold and ending at the top (or other part) of peak 430. In yet another embodiment, the time window may have a predetermined width centered or otherwise placed (e.g. starting or ending) around a maximum or other value above a threshold.
  • In embodiments using a threshold, the value of the pattern function may be required to be above the threshold value before a transaction is considered likely enough to authorize the transaction. Multiple threshold levels can be used, with the various levels potentially being used to determine a category of how likely a transaction is. The category can then be used in a determination of whether to authorize the transaction. The use of thresholds encompass using the exact likelihood values, which can be equivalent to using many threshold levels. The modeling function mentioned above may be used to perform any of these determinations.
  • In one embodiment, a threshold determination could be whether a counter has a high enough value (absolute or relative to one or more other counter). In another embodiment, a threshold level can be relative (e.g. normalized) compared to a total number of transactions. A normalization or determination of a threshold can be performed by adjusting the level depending on the low values of likelihood of a pattern, e.g., a peak to trough height could be used. In one aspect, the troughs may be offset to zero.
  • Storing time information that includes a number of transaction at certain elapsed times, one can not only handle paths (such as initial key to final key), but one can also easily identify multiple patterns. Each peak can correspond to a different pattern. For example, each peak can correspond to a different frequency of occurrence for a transaction associated with the final key relative to an event (e.g. a transaction) associated with the initial key. In one embodiment, the time information for the elapsed times can be stored by storing a time of when both events occur. In another embodiment, time information can store the elapsed time as one value. In yet another embodiment, the time of one event might implicitly include the time of the initial event (e.g. when the first event is beginning of a month or other fixed time period).
  • From FIG. 4, one can identify one predominant pattern (peak 430) with a long wavelength (short frequency), which does not occur very often, and three minor peaks with higher frequencies. However, the determination of a pattern might still take significant computational effort if the pattern can have any functional form.
  • V. Use of Periodic Functions and Counters
  • Some embodiments use certain functional forms to help identify different patterns. As mentioned above, periodic functions can be used, e.g., eiwt, where w is a frequency of the pattern. For example, each bar (counter) 410 of FIG. 4 can correspond to a different frequency. The total probability V of a K2 transaction occurring at a time after a K1 transaction can be considered as proportional to
  • W C w wt ,
  • where Cw corresponds to the counter value at the frequency w and w runs over all of the frequencies. Cw can be considered a coefficient of the periodic function eiwt at a particular frequency. Thus, conceptually, a probability can be calculated directly from the above formula.
  • In one embodiment, the frequencies are pre-selected thereby allowing an efficient determination of the patterns. Further, the frequencies can be identified only by the associated wavelength, or wavelength range. Note that in certain embodiments, the use of eiwt is simply a tool and the actual value of the function is not determined.
  • FIG. 5A shows a table 500 that stores time information for a key pair <KI:KF> according to embodiments of the present invention. The table 500 stores information for elapsed times between transactions associated with the particular key pair. Table 500 can also store amount information for the transactions. Table 500 can be viewed as a tabular form of plot 400 along with all the possible variations for different embodiments described for plot 400.
  • In one embodiment, each column 510 corresponds to a different time range. The time range may correspond to ranges mentioned above with reference to FIG. 4. As shown table 500 has 6 time ranges, but any number of time ranges may be used. The time ranges can be considered to correspond to different functions that approximate the transaction patterns of a consumer or other entity. For example, each time range can correspond to or be considered a different frequency w for eiwt.
  • In some embodiments, table 500 only has one row. In other embodiments, the rows of table 500 correspond to different dollar amounts (or dollar amount ranges). Thus, each time range may have subgroups for set ranges of amounts (e.g. dollar amounts). The organization is similar to a matrix, where a row or a column can be viewed as a group or subgroup. Although five amount ranges are shown, table 500 can have any number of dollar amounts. In some embodiments, there is only one row. i.e. when dollar amounts are not differentiated. Note that the convention of row and column is used for ease of illustration, but either time or amount could be used for either row or column (each an example of an axis). Also, the data for a table can be stored in any manner, e.g. as a single array or a two-dimensional array.
  • The values for the matrix elements 520 correspond to a number of KF transactions that have elapsed times relative to a KI event (e.g. a transaction) that fall within the time range of a particular column 510. In one embodiment, each newly received K2 transaction can cause a box (element) 520 of the table (matrix) 500 to be increased. The value of the matrix element (an example of a likelihood value) can be incremented by one for each transaction, or another integer or non-integer value. The value can also be a complex number, as described below. In another embodiment, a table can be required to have a certain total of all values, average of the values, minimum value in any matrix element, or other measure of the values in the table. Such a requirement can ensure that enough data has been received to provide an accurate pattern.
  • The values of the matrix elements can be used as likelihood values of a pattern for the key pair <KI:KF>, e.g. as part of step 330 of method 300. A combination of the matrix elements (e.g. a row or a whole table) can be a likelihood function representing one or more patterns. For example, matrix elements with high values relative to the other matrix elements can indicate a pattern of transactions in the corresponding time range, which can correspond to a particular frequency w. In another embodiment, one could view each matrix element in isolation to determine whether a transaction is likely. For example, if a matrix element exceeds a threshold value, it may be determined that a transaction is likely to occur in that time range. The threshold can be determined in various ways, for example, as a function of a sum of all of the matrix elements, or equivalently can be fixed with the matrix elements being normalized before a comparison to a threshold. Thus, step 360 can be accomplished easier based on how step 330 is done.
  • As mentioned above, the time ranges can all be of the same length (e.g. 24 hours) or be of varying lengths. In one embodiment, the first column is of very short time length, the second column is of longer time length, and so on. In this manner, more detail is obtained for short wavelengths while still allowing data to be stored for long wavelengths without exhausting storage capacity. In another embodiment, dollar amount ranges are progressively structured in a similar manner as the time ranges can be. In one implementation, the dollar amount range can be used to track the likelihood of transactions having certain dollar amounts. A dollar amount for a current transaction can be used to determine a specific likelihood function that corresponds to the amount, e.g., a row of the table.
  • FIG. 5B shows a plot 510 for use in determining the time ranges for table 500 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The X axis corresponds to the column numbers. The Y axis corresponds to the time of a particular column in minutes. For example, the first column includes times between the first data point at time domain zero and the data point at time domain 1. Due to the large scale of the Y axis, the second data point appears to be at zero, but is simply quite small relative to the maximum value.
  • The wavelength λ of a pattern corresponds to the time range of a column. For embodiments, using time relative to another transaction, then the λ is the time between transactions. In one embodiment, 16 time domains (ranges) are selected as follows: λ0 is under 1 minute, λ1 is between 1 minute and 2.7 minutes, λ2 is between 2.7 minutes and 7.4 minutes, λ3 is between 7.4 minutes and 20 minutes, and λ15 is over 1.2 million minutes.
  • The amount values can also be used to determine patterns for transactions of certain dollar amounts. If the amount is not of concern, then the values in a column can be summed to get a total value for a certain time range. The amounts can also be incorporated into the mathematical concept introduced above. For example, in mathematical notation, a value function can be defined as
  • V = W C w A wt ,
  • where A is an amount of a transaction.
  • When a transaction is received, the amount and corresponding elapsed time for a particular key pair can be used to determine a corresponding matrix element for the key pair table. The values in the matrix elements can be normalized across one table and across multiple tables. For example, a value can be divided by a sum for all the values of a particular key pair table. Also, a sum can be calculated for all values across multiple tables, and the values for each table divided by this sum. As part of a normalization, the value for a matrix element may be decreased when some of the data used to determine the value becomes too old. For example, for a time range that includes short time intervals, counts from transactions that have occurred more than a year ago may be dropped as being out of data since short timeframe patterns can change quickly.
  • In various embodiments, tables for different key pairs can have different time ranges and/or amount ranges. If such differences do occur, the differences can be accounted when a summing operation is performed. In one embodiment, the values in the matrix elements can be smoothed to account for values in nearby matrix elements, e.g., in a similar fashion as pattern 420.
  • In another embodiment, tables for different consumers can be compared to determine affinity groups. For example, tables with matching or similar key pairs can be subtracted (lower value more similarity) or multiplied (higher value more similarity). The closer the tables are, the more similarity (e.g. as a percentage) the consumers are, where non-matching tables can be used for normalization. In one example, one set of tables can correspond to the affinity group, and the calculation can be used to determine whether a person is within the affinity group.
  • In other embodiments, specific amount ranges or time ranges can be suppressed. For example, if only certain types of patterns (e.g. only certain frequencies) are desired to be analyzed, then one can suppress the data for the other frequencies. In one embodiment, the suppression is performed with a mask matrix that has zeros in frequency columns and/or amount rows to be suppressed. Thus, one can just multiply the matrices to obtain the desired data. The amount ranges can be similarly suppressed. When suppressing certain frequencies, these mask matrices can act similarly to a high pass, low pass, or notch filters. For example, if one wanted a coupon to be good only for 7 days, and it takes 1 day to create the coupon, the desired time window is any time range that includes those 6 days. Accordingly, the time information for transactions outside the time window can be suppressed as not being of interest.
  • Regarding the creation and updating of such tables, after an event (e.g. a consumer transaction) is received, embodiments can determine which tracked key pairs have finals keys that match with the keys resulting from the transaction. As a transaction can be associated with many keys and key pairs, a transaction may cause many tables to have a matrix element updated. For example, the transaction may cause different tables for a specific consumer to be updated. The updates could be for one table for all transactions by that consumer (an example of a general table), and more specific tables for particular zip codes, merchants, and other key elements. The transaction can also cause updates of tables for the particular merchant where the transaction occurred.
  • As there are different tables that can be updated, each with a different initial key, the time range (and thus the matrix element) that is updated may be different for each table. For example, when elapsed time is used, the last transaction for each table may be at a different elapsed time since the different initial transactions. The transaction amount would typically be the same, thus the exact row for the matrix element to be increased can be the same, as long as the tables have the same amount ranges. But the column (i.e. time) could be different for each table.
  • Regarding which time column to update, there can also be more than one column updated for a particular table. For example, a K2 transaction may have different time patterns relative to K1 transactions (i.e., <K1:K2> pair). Accordingly, when a K2 transaction is received, elapsed times from the last two, three, or more K1 transactions could be used to update the table.
  • In a similar manner, one key pair table could be <*:K2>, which includes correlations from a plurality of initial keys to the K2 key in the same table. Effectively, this table could equal the sum of all tables where K2 is the final key for a particular consumer or other entity. However, if the individual key pairs are not significant enough, the <*:K2> table may be the only table that is tracked. Tables of the type <K1:*> could also be tracked.
  • VI. Impedance (Likelihood of Another Transaction)
  • Besides being able to determine when a particular transaction is likely, embodiments can also predict if another transaction is going to occur after a current transaction, which is referred to as impedance. In some embodiments, such information can be tracked by using complex numbers for the matrix elements of the final event, with the imaginary part corresponding to the impedance. In other embodiments, the impedance can be tracked simply using another number for a matrix element or using another table. In one embodiment, impedance values can be used to determine whether to authorize a transaction.
  • In such embodiments, the imaginary part of a matrix element can correspond to an impedance that measures how likely it is that another transaction will occur. Such values can be tracked for individual consumers and/or groups of similar consumers (affinity groups). The likelihood can specifically correspond to a future transaction being correlated to the current transaction having the time range and dollar amount of the matrix element. The real value of a matrix element can correspond to the probability that the KF event will occur, and the imaginary value can relate to the probability that another event will be correlated to the KF event. The imaginary part can be updated when another transaction is correlated to the KF event of the specific time and amount. In one embodiment, a table can have just one impedance value for the likelihood of any transaction occurring later. Thus, just one imaginary part could be stored for an entire table. In another embodiment, the imaginary parts could be different for each matrix element.
  • In an embodiment, a low impedance (e.g. a large negative imaginary part) for a matrix element means that there is a high probability that another transaction is going to occur, and a high impedance (e.g. high positive value) means that it is unlikely that another transaction is going to occur, with zero being indeterminate. The implication of negative and positive values can be swapped. In another embodiment, a high impedance is provided by a low number (negative or positive), with larger numbers providing low impedance, or vice versa. Certain future transactions can be ignored (e.g. not counted) in determining impedance, for example, if the dollar amount is too low.
  • In this way, one can determine the specific instances where the transaction is a dead end (i.e. not leading to other transactions), and other instances where the transaction leads to other transactions. A high impedance would convey that the transaction is a dead end as no further transactions occur very often. Conversely, one can determine that a transaction is a gateway to many other transactions when it has a low impedance. In one embodiment, an average or sum of all of the imaginary parts of the matrix elements can be used to determine whether any future transaction is likely.
  • Instead of or in addition to the above use of imaginary values for impedance, greater impedance can also correspond to fraud. If a fraud transaction K2 is found to correlate to a transaction K1, then the <KI:K1> matrix elements (or just a specific element) can have the impedance increased. Thus, the impedance can reflect the profitability of the present transaction. For example, certain transactions happening right after buying a concert ticket can be associated with fraud, which is an example of where each matrix element may have its own complex part.
  • In some embodiments, both real and imaginary parts of a matrix element can contribute to an overall value, which can be used to determine whether to authorize a transaction. In other embodiments, values for the real or the imaginary components can be analyzed separately to determine whether a transaction is likely and then determine whether to authorize based on values for fraud or possible profit from following transactions.
  • VII. Calculation of Lieklihood Values
  • Once the relevant likelihood functions (e.g. key pair tables resulting from a filtering process) are obtained, the likelihood functions can be analyzed to provide likelihood values for specific events. The calculation of the likelihood functions can be performed in numerous ways. In one embodiment, the likelihood values can include specific matrix elements corresponding to a current transaction. The matrix elements can be modified (e.g. normalized) and/or summed to provide an overall likelihood. In another embodiment, the likelihood functions can be operated upon (e.g. summed or added with other values). This section describes some embodiments for obtaining relevant likelihood functions for an event from certain event patterns.
      • A. Determining Similarity Of Transactions To Established Patterns
  • One likelihood of interest is whether a specific transaction fits established transaction patterns of a consumer. Such a likelihood can be used to authorize a current transaction. To determine a likelihood, the current transaction can be compared to established transaction patterns.
  • In an example where one or more recent transactions are received, these recent transaction(s) can be compared to established transaction patterns of the consumer or other entities (e.g. fraudsters or a specific demographic). Such a comparison may be done as part of a determination whether to authorize a recent transaction. For example, if the transaction is similar to the established patterns of the consumer, then there is a greater likelihood of authorizing the transaction. Conversely, if the recent transaction is similar to the long term patterns of a fraudster, the likelihood of authorizing the transaction is less. The established patterns can be created from previous transactions that are known or assumed to be associated with a particular entity.
  • In one embodiment, a time interval between a recent transaction associated with a key KF and one or more other transactions associated with a key KI can be determined. Using methods described herein, one can obtain the <KI:KF> key pair table, created from KF transactions that have previously been correlated to KI transactions. For example, the keys KI and KF can be used to query the established tables for a consumer to obtain the <KI:KF> key pair table.
  • The time interval and potentially a dollar amount can then be used to select the appropriate matrix element. This matrix element, potentially along with the other matrix elements of the retrieved matrices can provide a likelihood directly or in combination with other values. For example, the matrix element can be divided by a sum of matrix elements in a row, all matrix elements in a table, or all transactions of a person to determine a likelihood for the recent transaction. The appropriate matrix element(s) can be selected using multiplication.
  • FIG. 6 shows an example of obtaining indicia of a similarity of a recent transaction relative to an established transaction pattern of a consumer according to embodiments. In FIG. 6, a short-term table 610 created from one or more recent transactions is multiplied (element by element) by pattern table 620 to provide indicia 630, which can be used as a likelihood value. Indicia 630 can provide a measure of how similar the short-term table is to the pattern table 620, and thus how likely that it is for the recent transaction to have occurred.
  • In this simple example, suppose the recent transaction is associated only with K1, and K1 is correlated only to K2. Then a table <K2:K1> can be created with a “1” in the proper matrix element of table 610 relative to the last K2 transaction, with zeros in the other matrix elements. Table 610 shows a value of 1 for the first dollar amount and the fourth time range. Then, short-term table 610 can multiply the <K2:K1> key pair table 620 (which has been matched and retrieved), with the result selecting out the matrix element that matches the short-term matrix element, in this case “2”. The value of this matrix element 630 can (e.g. when normalized) can provide a measure of a likelihood of the K1 transaction at that specific time. Since “2” is relatively low compared to the other matrix elements, the likelihood of the K2 transaction occurring with the specified dollar amount is relatively low. Note that the likelihood can be determined only based the matrix elements in the same row.
  • In another embodiment, pattern table 620 can correspond to a pattern of fraud. Thus, the indicia 630 having a value of “2” this can be seen as a low likelihood of fraud relative to the other times. However, if the matrix element was the largest value in the table, then the recent transaction K1 can be seen as having a higher likelihood of fraud.
  • Overall, multiple short-term tables might result for a current K1 transaction. Also, a single short-term table could have multiple matrix elements with a “1” or other value to signify that the time interval between transactions falls within the specified time range. Multiple recent transactions may also be used to determine the likelihood for the K1 transaction. For example, if other recent transactions are not likely, then they may affect the likelihood of the most recent transaction. Such use of other recent transactions may be used in any embodiment.
      • B. Multiplying Tables—Alignment
  • There may be instances where the key pair for a short-term table is not found in the key pairs of an established pattern tables. When this occurs, a short-term table may be aligned with an established pattern table to determine a matching table for multiplying. In one embodiment, a key for the short-term table can be broadened until a match occurs.
  • For example, a short-term table can have a final key of :4812,345>, where 4812 is the merchant code and 345 is the first three digits of a zip code. However, the tables of a second entity may not contain a table with this final key. This may be because the consumer has few transaction in zip codes starting with 345. But the short-term table may still contain useful information as to a similarity of the entities. Thus, the key :4812,345> can be broadened to be :4812,*> so that it matches with a table of the second entity. The zip code can be broadened in one step or incrementally to :4812,34>, :4812,3>, and then :4812,*>, where a match is found.
  • Such alignment can be performed between sets of key pair tables. In a general sense, a set of key pair tables can be viewed as a key manifold. When the key manifolds are normal (i.e. both spaces have identical amounts of keys), then one can apply the operations directly. However, if the key spaces are not normalized, then an alignment may be performed.
  • In one embodiment, each table of one manifold is aligned with exactly one table of the other manifold. In another embodiment, there may not be a match found for a table from one manifold to another. In such a case, the non-matching tables can be dropped, or distinguished from tables that did match after alignment. A distinction can also be made between tables that only match after alignment and tables that match exactly. For example, it may be useful to know what the entities do that is not the same (no match), or maybe just similar (match after some alignment). Also, other operations besides multiplication can be performed, such as division, subtraction, and addition.
      • C. Similarity to Fraud
  • With this framework of aligning and multiplying keys, more complicated calculations of likelihood can be performed. Other operations, such as division can be used. A purpose of division can be to normalize a key manifold (i.e. a set of tables).
  • FIG. 7 shows a calculation of a likelihood that a transaction or set of transactions are similar to established patterns according to embodiments. Such a calculation can provide a likelihood of occurrence of a transaction. Fraud tables 710 and total transaction tables 720 are established pattern tables, which can be updated at set times, e.g., once a day, week, etc. Account tables 730 are short-term tables created from the transaction or set of transactions. The constants table 740 is a table that can be used for normalizing, e.g., to place the values of a table to be within a specific range.
  • Fraud tables 710 can be obtained from fraudulent transactions across all or many entities. In one embodiment, the specific set of tables have a common key element, e.g., all fraud for a specific merchant or during a specific month. Other key elements can be used, e.g., zip code, country, or any other suitable key element. The fraud tables selected may be ones that have a significant amount of fraud. For example, a transaction from one zip code to another zip code far away within a short time frame is likely to be fraud.
  • Total transactions tables 720 can be obtained from all transactions across all or many entities. In one embodiment, the total transactions tables 720 are obtained from the same entities as the fraud tables 710. Similar to fraud tables 710, total transactions tables 720 can share a same key element, for example, the same key element as in fraud tables 710. The total transactions can include fraudulent transactions and valid transactions, or just valid transactions. The fraud and total transactions tables can be computed in a batch at prescribed times, e.g., every day, week, month. The number of fraud and/or total transaction tables can be quite high, e.g., 10,000 to 500,000 or more.
  • In an example where the fraud tables 710 and the total transactions tables 720 include transactions for a particular month, there may be fewer fraud tables than total transaction tables. This may occur since not all key pairs may have a significant enough fraudulent transactions to have a certain key pair table tracked. In such instances, the fraud tables that are being tracked can be aligned with the total transaction tables.
  • Once the tables are aligned, the total transaction tables 720 can be used to normalize the fraud tables 710 by dividing a fraud table by the corresponding total transaction table. After the division, the normalized fraud tables can be stored in RAM (or any other memory with faster access than disk). As with FIG. 9, the division operation divides each matrix element of a fraud table with the corresponding matrix element of the total transaction table. The division can provide a normalization of the counters for the fraud tables. For instance, a particular fraud table may have high values, but if there are many total transactions, the total percentage of transactions that are fraudulent is low. Thus, the likelihood of a fraudulent transaction is low.
  • In one embodiment, each fraud table is aligned with exactly one transaction table. For example, if there are 100 fraud tables tracked (i.e. for a given group having a common element, such as month), then 100 tables result from the alignment and division. Note that the alignment can be implicit in the notation of a division operation. In some embodiments, there may not be a match of a fraud table to a total transaction table, although this may happen rarely. In such a case, the fraud table may be dropped, and thus there may be fewer resulting tables than fraud tables. In an embodiment, one can differentiate fraud tables that do not have a match from tables that did match, or between tables that only match after alignment and tables that match exactly.
  • Account tables 730 can be created from a plurality of recent transactions, e.g., as fraud tends to happen in bunches of consecutive transactions. Regardless of how many recent transactions are used, multiple account tables can result. For example, one transaction can have a key that is correlated to multiple initial keys. Thus, a plurality of short-term key pair tables can be generated. An account table can have a form as described above for table 910. In various embodiments, mapping module 392 and/or a matching module (e.g. module 794) can be used to determine which short-term key pair tables are created.
  • Account tables 730 can then aligned with the normalized fraud tables. Before alignment, some or all of the account tables can be summed. In one embodiment, two account tables can be summed when the keys are similar. In effect, the final transactions for each of the tables can be considered to be of a same type, i.e. have the same key. For example, if the merchant is the same, but the zip codes are different, the two tables can be merged and the zip code dropped or broadened (which can be considered an intersection of the two key pair tables). This summing may be particularly appropriate when both tables would be aligned with a same fraud table. In such a case, a summing after multiplying the account tables by the normalized fraud tables provides the same resulting table.
  • After alignment, the account tables can be multiplied element-by-element with the normalized fraud tables, thereby providing a plurality of account-fraud tables. In one embodiment, these account-fraud tables can be summed to provide one final table. In one aspect, the summing can be due to the fraud tables 710 being grouped to have a similar key element, and thus the final table can relate to the one key element. This final table can provide an overall similarity of the transaction patterns to certain types of fraud, and therefore can be used (e.g. by a modeling function as mentioned in step 380 of method 300) to determine a likelihood of whether a transaction is actually from the consumer. In another embodiment, each of the account-fraud tables can independently be final tables that are used by a modeling function.
  • In one embodiment, if an account table cannot be aligned (i.e. there is no corresponding normalized fraud table), then an average value of fraud can be used. In various embodiments, this average level of fraud is single number that multiplies the account table, is a table of average values, and can be the same across all fraud groups or just the same within a single fraud group.
  • In another embodiment, a mask matrix can be used to remove certain matrix elements from the account-fraud tables or from the final table. For example, the mask matrix can remove low frequency or high frequency components, or be a notch filter to select frequencies in the middle. Also, certain dollar amounts can also be removed. In one implementation, the mask matrix has 1s in matrix elements that are to be kept and 0s in matrix elements that are not to be analyzed.
  • Although fraud tables 710 were normalized, the final table(s) may still have matrix elements with values that can vary widely. This variation in values can cause instability in a modeling function, which uses the matrix element as indicia of the patterns to obtain a likelihood value. Accordingly, in some embodiments, constants matrix 740 is used to constrain the final matrix element to be within a certain range of values, e.g., between −1 and 1 or 0 and 1. In one embodiment, constants matrix 740 is created from a specified functional form, such as tanh, log, or sigmoid (generally S shaped) functional form.
  • Constants matrix 740 can also constrain matrix elements values to correspond to a third number within the prescribed range. For example, a zero output can be mapped to a matrix element value where fraud and valid transactions may be more difficult to determine and thus sensitivity needs to be greater. In one embodiment, the functional form of constants matrix 740 can be kept for an extended period of time, where inputs of specific matrix element values (e.g. maximum and minimum values in a specific table) are used to determine the exact values. Which count corresponds to zero may also have an input parameter. The functional forms may be constant or vary across multiple entities.
  • The calculation shown in FIG. 7 can done for different groups of fraud tables, e.g. one group shares a same merchant, one group shares a month, etc. In such embodiments, the account tables used for a particular group can be chosen to correspond with a particular group. Thus, different account tables can be used for different groups. In one embodiment, each of these calculations can then be combined and provided to a model function that uses the inputs to determine a risk score related to whether the transaction is fraudulent or not.
  • Instead of or in addition to the comparison to fraud, one can also add a calculation involving the established transaction pattern of a consumer. In such embodiments, the fraud tables can be replaced with the established key pair tables of the consumer. The multiplication operation can then provide a measure of how likely the recent transactions fit the consumer's pattern, and thus can contribute to a determination of whether a transaction is from the consumer. A higher similarity to the established pattern can signify a higher likelihood of the transaction being valid. The final results from the fraud comparison and the consumer comparison can be analyzed separately or both be input to a same modeling function that accounts for the respective values.
  • The form of the formula in FIG. 7 can also be used to determine how likely a consumer is part of an affinity group. Instead of the fraud tables, the key pair tables of an affinity group can be used. Normalization can still be performed with total transaction tables for the specific affinity group or transaction tables across multiple affinity groups. The account tables can still be made of just recent transactions, or can be tables for established patterns of a consumer. The tables can be normalized as well.
  • In one embodiment, the normalized fraud tables (and potentially the account tables) can be stored across multiple processors and each one can perform the corresponding multiplication if there is a match to an account table. As an alternative, a query can be provided to each processor and the processor that is storing the desired fraud table can return the requested table. The final table(s) can be provided to a single processor or set of processors that are configured to run a modeling function.
  • VIII. Likelihood for a Current Transaction
  • As stated above, embodiments can be used to determine a likelihood (e.g. a risk score) that an event (e.g. a transaction) is fraudulent, a likelihood of an entity being similar to a demographic, a likelihood of an event occurring, or any other likelihood measure. FIG. 8 is a flowchart of a method 800 for determining a likelihood of events for which data has been received according to embodiments. Method 800 can be performed by any one, plurality, or combination of computer apparatus described herein, and components thereof.
  • In step 810, data for a pending transaction is received. The pending transaction can be a transaction that has been initiated by a consumer, but has not completed as authorization has not yet been provided. In one embodiment, the transaction data is received as part of an authorization request sent by a merchant. In another embodiment, data for recent transactions are retrieved for processing as well. These recent transactions may be used to determine authorization of the pending transaction, for example, by being used to determine if a fraud pattern is emerging and thus if fraud for the pending transaction is more likely (e.g. as described above for FIG. 7).
  • In step 820, the transaction data is used to map the pending transaction to one or more keys. If recent transactions are used, the recent transactions can also be mapped, or have been previously mapped. In some embodiments, the mapped keys are specifically keys that are being tracked, for example, for the consumer, an affinity group, or a fraud entity. In one embodiment, the mapping is performed by a mapping module, which can also ensure that the mapped keys are specifically keys that are being tracked for a particular entity.
  • In step 830, key pair tables (e.g. short-term tables 730) are generated using the keys and time information of the transactions. In one embodiment, the key pair tables have a final key matching one of the keys resulting from step 820 are obtained. In another embodiment, the key pair tables can be combined when two transactions are similar. For example, similar zip code keys for two transactions (e.g. one recent and the pending transaction) can be combined into a single broader zip code key.
  • In step 840, tables of established patterns that correspond to the generated key tables from step 830 are identified. These tables can be likelihood functions that approximate patterns. The corresponding tables may be associated with a same entity as the key pair tables in step 830. For example, the corresponding tables may be the established event patterns for a consumer. In other embodiments, the corresponding tables are for an affinity group or for a fraud entity, both of which are associated with the consumer as entities whose patterns relate to determining whether to authorize the transactions of a consumer. The corresponding tables may be a combination of tables, e.g., fraud tables 710 divided by total transaction tables 720. In one embodiment, a matching and retrieval function identifies the relevant tables using methods described herein. In another embodiment, an established pattern table is required to have a certain total of all values, average of the values, minimum value in any matrix element, or other measure of the values in the table. Such a requirement can ensure that enough data has been received to provide an accurate pattern.
  • In step 850, each generated key pair table is multiplied by a corresponding established pattern table, thereby providing a plurality of resulting tables. In one aspect, each matrix element of one table is multiplied by a corresponding matrix element of the other table. These resulting tables can be summed into one final table, only some of the tables can be summed, or not summed. The final table(s) can be multiplied by a table of constants to transform the matrix element values to be within a predetermined range of values. In one embodiment, the values of the resulting tables can each be used as likelihood values. In another embodiment, only the non-zero values of the resulting tables are used as likelihood values.
  • In step 860, at least some of the values of the final tables are used as input to a modeling function, such as an optimization algorithm or a decision tree. In one embodiment, only the non-zero values are entered into the modeling function. The matrix elements of the final tables can be separately input to the modeling function. The modeling function can analyze the final tables to determine a score, such as a risk score for the event being fraud or a similarity score for the generated key pair tables being similar to the pattern tables (e.g. to see if a person is part of an affinity group).
  • In step 870, the score is used to determine whether a certain action is performed. For example, if a risk score is above a certain value the event can be considered to valid, and not fraud, or vice versa. A level of validity or fraud can depend on the specific values of the score. The risk score by itself or other factors can be used by an authorization entity (e.g. an issuer or a payment processing network) to determine whether or not to authorize the transaction. In embodiments where the score includes a similarity to the transaction patterns of a consumer, a person may be allowed to enter incorrect information (e.g. mistype a zip code), but the system can still authorize the transaction when the transaction fits established patterns. Some embodiments can even have a requirement of entering the zip code to be actively removed after a swipe of a card if the likelihood is sufficiently high. In one embodiment, challenge questions can be determined based on a value of the score.
  • Any of the computer systems mentioned herein may utilize any suitable number of subsystems. Examples of such subsystems are shown in FIG. 9 in computer apparatus 900. In some embodiments, a computer system includes a single computer apparatus, where the subsystems can be the components of the computer apparatus. In other embodiments, a computer system can include multiple computer apparatuses, each being a subsystem, with internal components.
  • The subsystems shown in FIG. 9 are interconnected via a system bus 975. Additional subsystems such as a printer 974, keyboard 978, fixed disk 979, monitor 976, which is coupled to display adapter 982, and others are shown. Peripherals and input/output (I/O) devices, which couple to I/O controller 971, can be connected to the computer system by any number of means known in the art, such as serial port 977. For example, serial port 977 or external interface 981 can be used to connect computer system 900 to a wide area network such as the Internet, a mouse input device, or a scanner. The interconnection via system bus 975 allows the central processor 973 to communicate with each subsystem and to control the execution of instructions from system memory 972 or the fixed disk 979, as well as the exchange of information between subsystems. The system memory 972 and/or the fixed disk 979 may embody a computer readable medium. Any of the values mentioned herein can be output from one component to another component and can be output to the user.
  • A computer system can include a plurality of the same components or subsystems, e.g., connected together by external interface 981. In some embodiments, computer systems, subsystem, or apparatuses can communicate over a network. In such instances, one computer can be considered a client and another computer a server. A client and a server can each include multiple systems, subsystems, or components, mentioned herein.
  • The specific details of particular embodiments may be combined in any suitable manner without departing from the spirit and scope of embodiments of the invention. However, other embodiments of the invention may be directed to specific embodiments relating to each individual aspect, or specific combinations of these individual aspects.
  • It should be understood that the present invention as described above can be implemented in the form of control logic using hardware and/or using computer software in a modular or integrated manner. Based on the disclosure and teachings provided herein, a person of ordinary skill in the art will know and appreciate other ways and/or methods to implement the present invention using hardware and a combination of hardware and software
  • Any of the software components or functions described in this application, may be implemented as software code to be executed by a processor using any suitable computer language such as, for example, Java, C++ or Perl using, for example, conventional or object-oriented techniques. The software code may be stored as a series of instructions, or commands on a computer readable medium for storage and/or transmission, suitable media include random access memory (RAM), a read only memory (ROM), a magnetic medium such as a hard-drive or a floppy disk, or an optical medium such as a compact disk (CD) or DVD (digital versatile disk), flash memory, and the like. The computer readable medium may be any combination of such storage or transmission devices.
  • Such programs may also be encoded and transmitted using carrier signals adapted for transmission via wired, optical, and/or wireless networks conforming to a variety of protocols, including the Internet. As such, a computer readable medium according to an embodiment of the present invention may be created using a data signal encoded with such programs. Computer readable media encoded with the program code may be packaged with a compatible device or provided separately from other devices (e.g., via Internet download). Any such computer readable medium may reside on or within a single computer program product (e.g. a hard drive, a CD, or an entire computer system), and may be present on or within different computer program products within a system or network. A computer system may include a monitor, printer, or other suitable display for providing any of the results mentioned herein to a user.
  • The above description of exemplary embodiments of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form described, and many modifications and variations are possible in light of the teaching above. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications to thereby enable others skilled in the art to best utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated.

Claims (21)

1. A method of determining authorization of a transaction involving a consumer, the method comprising:
receiving data associated with the transaction, wherein the data includes a time T of the transaction;
identifying a first likelihood function associated with the consumer and with the transaction, wherein the first likelihood function approximates one or more patterns of previously performed transactions, the first likelihood function having a respective likelihood value for each of a plurality of times;
a computer system determining a first likelihood value of the first likelihood function, the first likelihood value providing a measure of a likelihood of the transaction occurring at the time T; and
determining a score using the first likelihood value, the score adapted to be used to determine authorization of the transaction.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
receiving data corresponding to previous transactions;
associating one or more keys with each previous transaction;
correlating pairs of previous transactions, each correlated pair associated with a particular pair of keys; and
for each correlated pair, determining time intervals between the transactions of the correlated pair; and
for each key pair:
tracking numbers of occurrences of correlated pairs having time intervals within specified time ranges, the transactions of the correlated pairs being associated with corresponding keys of the key pair,
wherein a likelihood function for a pattern of a key pair includes the numbers of occurrences of correlated pairs for a key pair.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein the previous transactions are associated with the consumer and/or with one or more other consumers similar to the consumer.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein identifying the first likelihood function associated with the transaction includes:
associating one or more keys with the transaction, wherein a likelihood function is associated with an initial key and a final key; and
identifying the first likelihood function as being associated with a first final key that matches one of the keys associated with the transaction.
5. The method of claim 4, further comprising:
matching the first final key with one of the keys associated with the transaction includes broadening the one of the keys associated with the transaction until the one of the keys associated with the transaction is equal to a final key of one of a plurality of likelihood functions.
6. The method of claim 4, further comprising:
identifying other likelihood functions associated with the consumer and with the transaction; and
the computer system determining another likelihood value for each of the likelihood functions,
wherein determining the score uses the another likelihood values.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the first likelihood function approximates one or more patterns of fraudulent transactions, and wherein the score includes a measure of a likelihood that the transaction is fraudulent.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the first likelihood function approximates one or more patterns of transactions previously performed by the consumer, and wherein the score includes a measure of a likelihood that the transaction is consistent with the one or more patterns.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the first likelihood function approximates one or more patterns of transactions previously performed by consumers to which the consumer is considered similar, and wherein the score includes a measure of a likelihood that the transaction is consistent with the one or more patterns.
10. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
transmitting the score to another entity involved in the transaction.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein the another entity is an issuer of a credit account being used for the transaction.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the data associated with the transaction is received from a merchant involved in the transaction.
13. The method of claim 12, wherein the data associated with the transaction is received from the merchant in a request for authorization of the transaction, the method further comprising:
providing an approval to the authorization request when the transaction is authorized based on the score.
14. The method of claim 1, wherein determining the score using the likelihood value includes inputting the first likelihood value into a neural network that has been trained with valid and fraudulent transactions.
15. The method of claim 1, wherein the transaction data includes a first amount of the transaction, wherein the first likelihood function is associated with a range of amounts that includes the first amount, and wherein other likelihood functions are associated with different ranges of amounts.
16. The method of claim 1, wherein the computer system is part of a payment processing network.
17. A computer program product comprising a tangible computer readable medium storing a plurality of instructions for controlling one or more processors to perform the method of claim 1.
18. A computer system comprising:
one or more processors; and
the computer program product of claim 17.
19. A method of determining authorization of a transaction involving a consumer, the method comprising:
receiving data associated with the transaction, wherein the data includes a time T of the transaction;
identifying one or more tables associated with the consumer and with the transaction, each table including a plurality of values organized along at least one axis, wherein a first axis of each table corresponds to a plurality of different time ranges, and wherein the values in each table correspond to a number of previous transactions occurring within one of the different time ranges;
a computer system determining at least one value from each table, wherein the at least one value is for a time range in which the time T corresponds; and
determining a score using the at least one value, the score adapted to be used to determine authorization of the transaction.
20. The method to claim 19, wherein each table includes a second axis corresponding to different ranges of amounts for previous transactions.
21. The method of claim 19, wherein identifying the one or more tables associated with the transaction includes:
associating one or more keys with the transaction, wherein a table is associated with an initial key and a final key; and
identifying the at least one table as being associated with a first final key that matches one of the keys associated with the transaction.
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