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Credit Cards and Geolocation
by Ulyana Chernyak on 04/17/14 05:46:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Credit Cards and Geolocation

We’ve all heard how credit cards can be used to track people’s whereabouts, so we can naturally assume there are benefits to using them for gaming or other virtual payments. Many important pieces of information can be learned from one simple online purchase. And there are many methods of gaining this info from a transaction including: placing a user based on IP address, browser language, Bank Identification Number, or even their telephone number.

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You can learn a lot from a little piece of plastic…

How can one transaction inform us about a user so well and what can it teach us, in regards to safety and information? Let’s discuss how each route informs the geolocation of a user separately. Each characteristic of geolocation identification can also serve differing functions ranging from fraud protection to customization.

The approach used also varies: we can be simply comparing payment details to geolocation information, or investigating into the reasons behind differences (if there are any). For example, when a player who has been paying for many years from the USA suddenly makes a payment from China, we immediately check what;s going on.

 

IP Addresses

An IP address or Internet Protocol address is simply a number that any networked device is labelled with, such as a computer or scanner or tablet. These labels serve a few functions, one of which is to identify that device within a network and the second is location addressing.

According to this DARPA article, an IP address’ purpose is as follows: “A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how to get there.” Using a device’s IP address, we can see the origins and location of a customer’s device. This is important to note so we can see what devices are being used in what countries, and identify the most used methods of payment in those areas. Streamlining the payment methods for users helps to make the customer’s buying experience easier leading to higher conversion rates.

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IP Address format example.

Browser Language

The language a customer’s browser is set to is helpful when trying to determine a user’s location for similar purposes to in IP addresses, but also can prevent fraud. With the infrastructure support in place to pinpoint device or browser anomalies like as non-matching time zones and operating system or browser language settings. When these don’t match up, anti-fraud measures can leap into action to protect users’ accounts and credit cards. Many platforms implement work to secure the use of credit cards and identity including using browser language detection and the like, including ThreatMetrix.

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What browser language can tell us include a customer’s country and even if there is fraudulent activity in regards to their credit card.

Bank Identification Number

A BIN, Bank Identification Number, is the number that is used to identify a certain bank. Credit card numbers include a BIN in their digits, for easy networking and identification, fraud and identity theft, and to differentiate purchasers. Using a BIN number database to pick out potential fraudulent orders online prevents a significant amount of losses, cancelled purchases and issues. Knowing a user’s BIN also allows companies to see where a user’s origin is and track which banks are most supported in those areas. Online merchants benefit from searching BIN databases and preventing purchase loss and tracking their users.

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The first six digits of a credit card usually indicate the BIN.

Phone Numbers

Even a simple phone number will include information in its structure and numbers where a customer is located. Pinpointing where a phone number is located is easy and helpful, and it becomes even more so when one can track down within a country where the user may be within that country. Tracking what sort of credit cards are used in that area gives developers a chance to offer more specified payment systems and track spending habits of countries and individuals. Credit cards often require phone numbers on file as well, so even more security is offered to both users and developers alike when keeping an eye on phone numbers. Users can also rest assured after providing their phone numbers in regards to certain transactions if the merchant can confirm their purchase with a text and code, reducing fraudulent exchanges as well.

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Phone numbers are organized specifically to help locate a point of origin.

Credit Card Geolocation – What it Tells Us

Vladimir Karnishin, Head of Card Acquisition and Risk Management at Xsolla, maintains that “geolocation can be tracked differently: from standard techniques as in discovering a user’s IP address to more sophisticated methods such as identifying bank location, telephone area code, email address, time zone and more. These and other parameters can serve different purposes: to customize user experience (in regards to the language of the payment page and payment currency) as well as to prevent fraud.”

All of these geolocation techniques, and more, can tell us what types of devices users favor in each country and what types of in-game purchases they make. From there, companies can choose what payments systems to feature and what sort of content to offer to those specific user bases. Having so many methods of geolocation and verification, companies can help prevent fraudulent purchases, protecting both users and themselves. From device identification to browser language settings to an everyday phone number, credit cards and their intricate interactions with both devices and databases offer important user information and security.


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