Your Online Purchase Might Get Declined For No Reason Anyone Is Willing to Tell You

Sure, she looks happy now. But what if her purchase gets declined?Image Source/ZUMAPRESS

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The Wall Street Journal tells us today about Riskified, a company that scores consumer behavior and then decides whether to approve or deny purchases. It’s used mostly for online purchases, by big and small sellers alike:

Michael Green, 50 years old, found out about one of the firms by accident. He ordered headphones online for his son’s 18th birthday. Days later, when he hadn’t heard anything about the order, he contacted the headphone brand, Audeze, which told him the purchase had been canceled because a third-party firm had determined he was a fraud risk. Mr. Green noticed that the status of his order said “Riskified Rejected.” When he emailed Riskified to ask why he had come up as a fraud risk, a customer service agent told him the company had no further information. “There was no explanation, no appeal,” said Mr. Green, a financial professional in Austin, Texas.

But wait!

After The Wall Street Journal contacted Riskified, CEO Eido Gal said Mr. Green’s order was incorrectly declined. “Riskified tends to be far more accurate and efficient than traditional fraud-prevention methods, but no solution is perfect, and we’re still improving,” he said.

There are two big problems here. First, there’s the usual “fuck you” attitude that all these companies have unless a reporter calls them up. Mr. Green was up the creek for no reason he could determine, and Riskified refused to bother looking into it until the Wall Street Journal contacted them. Suddenly, it turned out Green was “incorrectly declined.” How about that?

The second big problem is that no one knows what goes into these algorithms that check consumer behavior. For example, did you know that a third of all people named Green are black? Did that have any effect on things? There’s no telling, since Riskified’s algorithms are proprietary and they won’t tell us. What’s more, it’s even possible that this little factoid had an effect without Riskified even knowing it.

Welcome to the 21st century. It’ll all work out eventually, I suppose, but it’s sure a huge pain in the ass—or worse—while we wait.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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