Why have a trust & safety team?

When speaking with companies, I often get asked about what it means to have a “trust and safety” team. How does that differ from a fraud team?  Should I have a trust and safety team? How do I get buy-in to build this kind of team? These questions (and more) come from companies of all sizes, industries, and ages.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share what I’ve learned both from my experience building out abuse teams and from speaking with companies. Let’s start with a fundamental question: Should your company have a trust & safety team?

What types of companies have a trust & safety team?

Not every company needs to have a trust and safety (T&S) team. If your company’s only concern is payment fraud, then a fraud team is enough. T&S tends to be more of a fit for companies that are facing multiple types of abuse and where user/customer trust is mission critical to the business.

For example, think about companies like Airbnb. They need to proactively and reactively monitor their site for several types of abuse. Since Airbnb is a community-based company as well as a marketplace where hosts and guests interact, maintaining and building trust across the platform is crucial. If any of the below abuse types get out of hand, customer trust in the company could be breached. Thus, it makes sense for them to have an umbrella T&S organization that payment fraud and the rest can live under.

Example Abuse types:

  • Payment fraud  
  • Physical safety
  • Fake accounts
  • Spam  
  • Promo abuse
  • Content abuse
  • Account takeover

Another shift I have seen across the industry is a change in mindset for abuse teams. Ten years ago, their objective was quite clear: prevent “bad thing X” from happening. While that is still an objective these days, an additional responsibility has arisen: enable top line growth for the product/company.

Typically, this was something that the product or growth team was tasked with (and often still is) – but competition, particularly in ecommerce, has become so fierce that all teams must now think about top line growth. Simply put, abuse organizations have begun to evolve to think more holistically about customers and cannot afford to turn any potentially good customers away.

If these abuse types and changes in mindset resonate with you, then you may think about rebranding your team.

Next time, we’ll cover getting buy-in and resource sign-off from your leadership team to build, grow, and expand your T&S team’s role within your company.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin is the Trust and Safety Architect at Sift Science. Building high-performing teams and systems to combat malicious behavior are what drive him. Prior to Sift, Kevin worked as a manager at Facebook, Square, and Google in various risk, spam, and trust and safety roles.