Perseuss is a technology company that keeps a low profile, so low that the landing page of its website offers no clue as to its true purpose.
The page educates the reader at some length about a cluster of galaxies in the constellation Perseus that has a red shift of 5,366 km/s.
Even if you can make your way through all that, you still won’t know that Perseuss — the technology company, not the galaxy cluster — claims considerable success in reducing fraudulent airline ticket purchases.
The company was born out of efforts by a group of European airlines, including some of the largest carriers, to tackle fraud by sharing information.
They began by sharing spreadsheets, comparing characteristics of fraudulent transactions and looking for patterns of behavior.
As the community of airlines expanded, it needed a better way to handle large amounts of data.
It initially worked with an external company, but that relationship ended and the airlines partnered with IATA to create the independent company called Perseuss.
Currently, 70 airlines, mostly European, use Perseuss.
For the last year, Normand Schafer, who owns an online agency in Canada, has been charged with raising Perseuss’ profile in North America.
Schafer said the Perseuss system can store anything contained in a PNR except credit card numbers.
That would be a breach of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. It would also be pointless because when credit card numbers are used for fraudulent purchases, the accounts are quickly closed.
When data from a new PNR is submitted, Perseuss goes into action, performing a real-time check for matches of any of its elements among its fraudster information, such as addresses, e-mail addresses and itinerary information.
It can’t flag every name — “there are probably several fraudsters named John Smith,” Schafer said — but a transaction made by someone with an unusual name that matches one in the database would be flagged.
Serial fraudsters might also use stolen credit card numbers to book the same itinerary, he said.
Schafer became involved when he researched ways to protect his online agency, cheapticketscanada.com, from fraud.
He noted that as airlines get better at protecting themselves, fraudsters go after the next weakest link on the food chain — travel agencies.
Airlines, online agencies and large travel management companies can connect with the Perseuss database via an API.
Alternatively, they may choose to use API interfaces that are created by Payment Service Providers and fraud screening providers.
Perseuss also has developed a “lite version” of the system for agencies that don’t have the necessary technology resources.
Small agencies that have close relationships with their customers won’t want to run checks on every transaction, Schafer said, but it’s always a good idea to check new customers.
Schafer cautioned that fraud doesn’t just happen online: It happens with bookings made over the phone and in person as well.
“A travel agent in Alberta had a new client who booked $30,000 in tickets for a wedding party,” he said.
“A fraudster will befriend an agent and become the agency’s best client. The chargebacks will come weeks or even months later.”
Any merchant that uses Perseuss is required to comply with local privacy regulations, according to the company’s fact sheet.
Therefore, Perseuss does not have mandatory fields in the upload sheets, and it works closely with users to ensure that they comply with local regulations.
Information shared within the Perseuss community is region-bound, Schafer said.
Any information about Europe, for example, stays on servers in Europe, although it can be used by airlines on other continents for checking.