Identifying whether another company is trustworthy remains a critical challenge for organizations. Fraud and abuse strike businesses of all sizes, contributing to a lack of trust that pervades the broader internet. Join host Cameron D’Ambrosi and LegitScript CEO Scott Roth as they discuss the key to building the missing commercial identity layer and establishing online trust.
Cameron D'Ambrosi, Senior Principal at Liminal
Scott Roth, CEO
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:00:00] It’s a common cliche in the digital identity business that the Internet’s original sin is the foundational lack of an identity layer. This applies not just to human beings, but to businesses as well. In today’s conversation, we welcome the CEO of a company focused on solving these critical business identity challenges for marketplaces and payment processors alike. It’s a fantastic conversation you won’t want to miss. Stay with us. Welcome to State of Identity. I’m your host, Cameron D’Ambrosi. Joining me this week is Scott Roth, CEO of LegitScript. Scott, welcome to the podcast.
Scott Roth [00:00:31] Hi, thanks, Cameron. Good to see you again. And thank you so much for having me on the show.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:00:36] Really excited to have you. You know, I think LegitScript is sitting at the intersectionality of a bunch of really impactful trends in the digital identity landscape, in particular this notion of business identity, right? Getting a drill down, if you will, as to the legitimacy, the underlying identity of not just people, but of legal entities and helping businesses, online platforms mitigate the risks that stem from, you know, what right now is kind of a fairly pervasive problem and one that I still don’t think many consumers kind of really understand. Some of these battles that are going on behind the scenes of so many of the platforms that they use every day. Certainly, you know, working in partnering with LegitScript team opened my eyes to this whole different universe of identity challenges that I think many folks, whether they’re executives in the space or just end consumers are not quite aware of. So excited for this conversation.
Scott Roth [00:01:38] Yeah, well, a lot of we feel really fortunate to have what I feel like is a pretty amazing company and get to serve some pretty amazing clients. So happy to talk through things a little bit further.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:01:49] So I guess to kick us off for our listeners who are not familiar with the LegitScript platform and what you do, you know what’s a nice quick elevator pitch as to where you’re playing in the market and what capabilities you’re bringing your customers?
Scott Roth [00:02:05] You know, I like to start every conversation with our mission as a company, and that mission is to make the Internet and payment ecosystem safer and more transparent. And the way that we do that historically has been through a suite of what we refer to as persistent monitoring solutions. And so we do have several different capabilities. We work with search engines and social media platforms to help them ensure that the advertisers that advertisements that third parties are placing are both kind of complying with their policies, as well as the regulatory guidelines for anything that they might be marketing or advertising. We work with e-commerce marketplaces that have third party sellers to ensure that the products that they are selling are also, again in compliance with their policies, but are also products that are legal to be sold and shipped into different jurisdictions across the globe. And then lastly, we work with payment service providers, the folks who are offering the ability to process payments, typically online for e-commerce web stores, and we help mitigate risk for them to ensure that folks that are using their payment processing capabilities are also doing that for the sale of legal and hopefully not problematic products and services. And so there’s a whole variety of things that we help with in an ongoing monitoring way. But then also just recently, we have decided that we don’t want to just help identify bad things that might exist out on the platform and help get rid of those. But we also want to help stop bad things from getting onto the platform in the first place. And so we just recently announced what we call the LegitScript Onboarding Suite, which is a variety of different solutions to help do exactly that, help to see around some corners and identify either risky advertisers, sellers or merchants and help them before those folks get on your platform and potentially might harm or harm some of the consumers that are using your services.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:04:15] Well, thank you for that. And, you know, it’s it’s an interesting space in and in some ways a really interesting problem statement because it sounds simple, you know, not to be overly reductive, but it’s one of those things. It’s like, well, this sounds like pretty simple. And then you start peeling away those onion layers and you realize, well, this is more complicated than you think. And, you know, to folks who aren’t well-versed in these challenges, they might immediately be thinking like, what does this have to do with digital identity? Right? It’s like, well, this is just a, you know, a regulatory challenge or this is a marketing and advertising challenge. But when you strip these problem sets down to their bare components, I think you realize pretty quickly this is about business identity, right? Whether I’m a marketer looking to place advertisements on a search engine, whether I’m an independent merchant looking to retail, something on a marketplace, a multi, you know, multi-sided marketplace platform, or whether I am engaged in some sort of regulated business, you know, whether that’s firearms, whether that’s cannabis, whether that’s vaping. I’m trying to figure out how to navigate these kind of payment areas. It all boils down to, you know, what is the identity of this business? What are you doing? And does that comport with the restrictions that my counterparty is going to have in place? And, you know, similar to that common trope we talk about, you know, the fundamental flaw of the Internet is the lack of an identity layer from a consumer perspective. You know, I think we’re just now in many ways realizing this business identity layer has also been missing. And in some ways, it’s a much more daunting challenge because, you know, the authoritative data sets kind of just don’t exist, at least when you’re talking about a, you know, a physical person, you kind of can always assume. And, you know, I don’t mean to be dismissive of inclusion challenges and the challenges of people who fundamentally lack identity documents altogether, which is obviously a massive problem and one that will just place that outside the scope of this conversation. But when it comes to a person, the very least, like, you know, here in America, you can assume, okay, you probably have either, you know, a green card or you have a passport or a birth certificate or a driver’s license or something where we can kind of drill down to an authoritative source of like, who are you? And does, you know, the full faith and credit of the United States, can that be placed on that identity? You are presented from a business perspective. So much more complicated. You have international entities, you have all 50 state entities, and there really isn’t in many ways a true authoritative source. And to the extent there is, it doesn’t really tell you. What we need to know. It’s like, Ah, is this a scam company or is it not? Well, it could be a shell company that somebody set up a week ago, and we can prove that it exists, but that doesn’t give it, you know, a weighted identity, something that’s that’s meaningful as to, well, is this a real business is illegitimate or am I selling, you know, counterfeit male enhancement pills that should be consumed by nobody, not even horses?
Scott Roth [00:07:32] Yeah. Yeah. Well, no, I think I think you’re you’re nailing it with part of the challenge. And so I would say, yes, identity is one thing. And that alone is extremely complicated, especially because all of the things that you mentioned and the fact that any one of us could literally go start up a business and register it online in an instant today. But it’s not only the identity, it’s then the actions that that business is going and taking. And so you think about that and it’s not, you know, okay, who am I? Who do I say that I am? But then what am I doing and what am I doing over time? I don’t think anybody you know, if you want to do something nefarious, you’re not going to go to your bank. You’re not going to go to Stripe or Square or whatever to say, hey, I want a payment processing account to sell drugs. You’re going to go and say, Hey, I’m starting up an online shoe store, and then I’m going to use that Web store and the card not present processing capabilities to then process for this other website where I am selling drugs. And so it’s one of those challenges where it’s the identity, it’s the actions. But then because of the Internet and scale, I mean, we’re literally talking about millions of millions of merchants engaging on all of these platforms and getting your arms wrapped around that, not even to mention all of the different regulatory jurisdictions across the globe where you might be selling something. The problem just compounds so quickly. And so that’s where we feel really fortunate to be an extension of the risk and compliance or the trust and safety teams of these large platforms to really help them see around corners that they may not be able to see on their own or just because of the sheer size and scale and the changing landscape. It’s just really difficult to really, you know, go this journey on your own.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:09:23] And I think that, you know, one of the most interesting facets of this is the relative maybe opacity is the wrong word, but the degree to which many folks don’t realize when and how they’re engaging with these multi-sided marketplaces, I think it’s become a little bit more prevalent in the past year or two. But, you know, when you go to an Amazon, when you go to a Walmart. Then you just click. You know, by now. Yeah. Amazon oftentimes is not the one who’s selling you that widget. It is a third in a completely independent third party that maybe is paying Amazon or Walmart to do their logistics. So it’s going to be fulfilled by one of these centralized players. But like what’s actually in the box that you are receiving the product, whether that’s, you know, pharmaceuticals, whether that’s a slotted metal spoon like I just ordered the other day is coming from a source that in many ways has not fully necessarily been vetted. And that is the problem that that LegitScript is is trying to solve. And in many ways it’s Whac-A-Mole, Right. And we’ve seen historically a reactive approach to this, like it takes a consumer getting a bogus or dangerous or counterfeit product and kind of blowing the whistle by reporting it for platforms to take action. It sounds like with this new onboarding platform, you’re really trying to frontload some of that and investigate and establish a trusted identity for some of these merchants before they have a chance to to harm consumers. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, the thought process behind how you decided to kind of move into this onboarding focus posture?
Scott Roth [00:11:06] Yeah, for sure, for sure. And I think to get you there, I’ll talk a little bit about my journey with the company. So, you know, LegitScript has been in business for 15 years. I didn’t start the company. We had an amazing founder by the name of John Horton who started this business, and actually he started primarily around health care. So at a time where there were all these, you know, rogue Internet pharmacies that were popping up, selling prescription drugs without prescriptions or maybe selling drugs that were approved in one country, but not approved in other countries. And so, John, you know, ran the business, built up the business, built a really amazing business and got great clients on board. And I was fortunate enough to join the Learjet script journey three years ago and be handed the baton by John to take over as the next CEO. As we go to scale and grow and evolve our business. And so from my perspective, you know, as I came in and kind of looked at the company and what we were doing and who we were serving and how we were serving, I saw two big opportunities. One was how do we use a lot more advanced technology to help solve this problem? Our solution is a combination of technology data as well as a team of analysts that are, you know, really well trained to be able to spot a lot of these risky and problematic products and advertisements and things like that. But obviously, we’re in an era right now where there is so much AI machine learning that we can apply to some of these challenges. And so, you know, having been in the software world for the last 20 years, I saw a huge opportunity for us to go do that. The second opportunity that I saw was I don’t think the need for persistent and ongoing monitoring is ever going to go away. But there was a huge opportunity to try to identify some of these bad actors or bad or risky actions before they happened in the first place. And so that is what we’re doing with the onboarding suite, is combining both of those things. It’s advanced technology to really go address that. And so we have multiple different components of what are a part of the onboarding suite. And really the onboarding suite is designed to help search engines, social media platforms, e-commerce marketplaces, payments, companies make better decisions about who do they let onto their platform from a third party merchant perspective in the first place. One of those components that we’re building is what we call risk check. And risk check is really using our 15 years of collective knowledge, of analyzing the commercial Internet. You know, on any given day, we are analyzing billions of data points for over 15 million of the most commercially active merchants across the globe. They’re folks that are advertising on search and social media platforms. They’re selling on many of the marketplaces that you’ve mentioned. They’re processing payments for their own websites. And so we can use signals from that massive set of data to say, okay, if we’re seeing somebody show up on your platform for the first time, there’s a pretty good likelihood that we’ve already seen them and that we’ve analyzed that business and we know what they’re up to. And so that is one element of this, is that we want to give you and as near real time as possible, you know, all of the analysis and the signals that we’ve seen of that merchant over time so that you can build that into your risk scoring and how you think about whether or not you want to onboard them. Another element of the onboarding suite is what we refer to as both certification and verification for some of these. Really, really high risk industries like health care and online pharmacies. They are so difficult to truly understand. Are they who are who are the folks that are engaging in this and are they doing it by the rules across all these jurisdiction? We’ve actually created industry recognized certification programs so that the legitimate merchants can come to LegitScripts, get certified, and then we monitor their business on an ongoing basis. Because again, we know that not everybody who goes in the front door is going to continue looking the same way over time. But we have certification programs that do a full vetted, full vetting and essentially an underwriting of that business itself. And then verification is a very similar thing to certification. But, you know, there’s only a certain amount of industries where we can go build that industry standard. But there’s a lot of folks out there who are like, okay, you know, maybe it’s for firearms and weapons or maybe it’s for counterfeit products and potentially IP infringing products. We don’t have a standardized certification yet, but we can use our collective intelligence to help you that, you know, sellers or content creators in those different areas to ensure that they are who they say they are. So there’s multiple different elements to this. But at the end of the day, all of the things that we’re doing that are are really helping to give as many signals as possible for you, for you as a platform to decide, is this a advertiser, a seller or a merchant that I want to let in the front door in the first place?
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:16:24] I love that. I think this is right, combining a bunch of really innovative technologies that we’re seeing across the digital identity landscape. Obviously components of of KYC, assigning identities to these legal entities and then a healthy heaping of, you know, network intelligence where you are offering your customers the insights of, you know, an entire herd of folks as opposed to being the lone buffalo, you know, out on the plane fending for yourself.
Scott Roth [00:16:58] Well, and I just to pick up on that real quick, too. I’m glad you mention that, because that is one of the things that with our technology as well as our team of analysts we are constantly doing is we’re looking at that massive pool of merchants that we’re monitoring and we’re actually trying to create those network affiliations so that we know because as you mentioned earlier, it is often a game of whack a mole for these folks who are trying to engage in illicit activity. They will literally set up hundreds, if not thousands of websites. They’ll host them in multiple different places across the globe. They’ll advertise and sell on all different platforms and they’ll process payments with multiple providers because they know they’re constantly going to be getting shut down. And so the more that we can map attributes about all of those elements, we can see when they pop up on the next payment platform, hey, we know who this is. We know who they’re connected with. Don’t let them in the front door. And so that’s a huge part of what we do behind the scenes with the data that we have is really try to build as many of those network affiliations so that we can stop that game of whack a mole in its tracks.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:18:04] So where do you see the future developments coming in this space to some degree? You know, I think the flywheel effect is well in play. And by establishing yourself as the leading platform in this space, you know, you become the logical home for business identity for these types of use cases. But you’ve obviously started thinking more about, as we call it, the right, the digital identity lifecycle, moving from, you know, sitting in process after folks have come on board to helping with that onboarding. You know, do you see opportunities to continue moving across the lifecycle or is it more about, you know, gaining more significant purchase and market share to the extent that when a merchant on boards themselves with script you in one area, they can immediately start bringing kind of all their customer base on via the platform?
Scott Roth [00:18:59] Yeah, I think it’s, it’s probably a combination of both. You know, we are constantly broadening out the, the risk landscape that we’re able to analyze on. And so, you know, we definitely are looking at high risk sectors, but also, you know, some of these lower risk sectors are where a lot of problematic activity can hide. Again, like to use my example earlier, you know, somebody is not going to walk in the front door saying they want to process credit cards for the sale of illegal firearms and weapons. They’re going to say they want to set up a shoe store. So we need to be able to analyze other shoe stores to make sure that we know what those look like. And so for us, it’s probably, you know, broader broadening the horizon of the different, you know, elements or sectors that we can cover for our clients. And that does take a lot of work because we not only have to understand their policies and terms of service around that, but we need to understand the regulatory landscape across the globe. Because, you know, obviously what we do in the United States is not the exact same as what happens in Europe. It’s not the same that happens in Southeast Asia. And so, you know, that’s a massive undertaking in and of itself is to truly just map the regulatory landscape and be able to have that full coverage. But then the second element that you mentioned is, you know, we want to do this kind of cradle to grave through the entire digital identity or the advertiser seller merchant landscape. And we want to be able to have, you know, really that full coverage because again, it’s one of those things where you can’t ever stop analyzing the journeys never done. And you have to consider, especially with account takeover and things like that, it may actually be a benign merchant, but, you know, their website just got hijacked or their processing capabilities got hijacked and now it’s being used for something nefarious. So there’s so many different elements that play into that. The other part is a lot of these merchants or sellers or advertisers, you know, some of them are truly criminal outfits that are just out to go scam people and take advantage of consumers. There are others, though, who are just getting overly aggressive in what they’re doing. Maybe they were selling products, you know, in the United States, but they then decided to go into Europe and they just didn’t fully understand the regulations there. And so you have to watch that closely so that you can give some of those signals of it maybe isn’t a bad merchant that you want to terminate, but it’s somebody that you have to work with to mitigate. Hey, you know, you were selling these here and that’s fine, but you can’t go sell it in the same way in a different jurisdiction.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:21:43] Well, I think you hit on a really interesting point there, which is this notion of the non static nature of identity. Right. Whether it’s a company that has been hacked or to some degree a company that, you know, breaks bad, so to speak, or quite frankly, the third option, which is the ongoing sophistication of fraudsters, where they have the patience and the wherewithal to basically start a company, conduct legitimate business through it, to build up that footprint, build up that credibility. And then only after they feel they’ve established, you know, sufficient bona fides as legitimate corporate citizens do they then decide to run fraudulent activity through it. And we see this maturity, this ability to kind of wait things out across the fraud space, specifically where things like synthetic identity fraud, where, you know, they’ll take out a low credit limit credit card, pay that off, build the credit around that fake identity, and then only busted out once they get an Amex platinum with a $50,000 limit. I think we’re seeing this maturity in the fraud space primarily as a result of the massive amount of money you know, these types of criminals have. Right. We all know, unfortunately, kids crime does pay. It pays quite well if you’re willing to accept that risk. And that means these platforms, you know, fraud platforms, I should say fraud organizations have more money than they know what to do with. And because of the cost of laundering, those proceeds into legitimate money that they can spend to buy, you know, Lamborghinis or whatever, it’s often much easier to invest that back into the enterprise. And so this is a very common way. We’re seeing some of those ill gotten gains used, which is continuing to build out their own infrastructure to fund subsequent fraud as opposed to kind of trying to take their chips off the table, so to speak.
Scott Roth [00:23:40] Yeah, Yeah. No, I totally agree with that. I mean, one of the so one of the biggest things that we help our payment processing clients with is transaction laundering, which is, you know, essentially just online money laundering. And so you think the Ozarks and, you know, family, the family trying to go figure out how we have to go open up a casino or whatever, a laundry mat to open up, you know, a way to process money. You know, obviously in the online world, it’s a lot easier to go do that. And so the instance of transaction laundering where you are, you know, setting up a fake storefront and getting payment processing capabilities to then process for other either offline properties or, you know, direct transactions that you’re doing and engaging in via social media, whatever it might be. That is a massive, massive challenge. And you know, one example that I’ll give there is literally a cluster, a transaction laundering fraud network that we’ve now been tracking for over two years where it is literally. In the hundreds of thousands of payment processing accounts that they’ve opened up to be able to go process payments through this network and launder money. And it’s just the size and the scale of this challenge is massive. And I think it’s because, unfortunately, it’s pretty lucrative and there’s opportunities to go after that.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:25:09] I couldn’t agree more, Scott. You know, I think, again, we’re in violent agreement about why platforms like LegitScript are so needed in and what the growing threats that are confronting, you know, all sorts of whether it’s payment processors or marketplaces are. Putting your wizard hat on, taking out your trusty magic crystal ball. We’d love to hear some of your thoughts on predictions for the future of the space. In your opinion, what can we expect to see over the coming years?
Scott Roth [00:25:40] Yeah, great question. I wish I had that crystal ball and that magic power. But I guess some of the things that are top of mind for me is I think that, I mean, obviously everybody’s talking about, you know, generative AI and chat chips and things like that. I think that there is going to be this crazy proliferation of content creation that’s coming because of things like that. And so you think about the ability to just go out and spin up all kinds of things, whether it’s advertisements or product listings or even brand new websites like I think the toolset that the fraudsters have is so amazing right now that we’re all just going to have to stay on top of our game with what that, you know, how that evolves and what that looks like. I also think that, you know, there is just a massive wave of regulation that is on the horizon. And so I think that the regulation is just going to create, you know, all kinds of different both challenges and opportunities for the folks that are operating in this world. You know, you think about what’s happening across every different state with different privacy rules, with, you know, age verification, things like that. You know, I surely hope that we can do this in a right way where it’s not, but it doesn’t become punitive to just even operate a platform online anymore because all of the hoops and hurdles that you have to jump through. But I think that, you know, that that regulatory pressure that is being placed across the globe is also going to create a bunch of opportunities for folks to be able to help solve those problems. And ultimately, from my perspective, as long as it is truly protecting consumers, but also facilitating the ability to do good commerce, I think that that’s great. I hope it doesn’t get overly burdensome and I don’t want to get too much into the politics of everything, But I think that is a huge shift in evolution that we’re going to see play out over the next 12 to 18 months. That’s going to have some pretty big ramifications on how people operate.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:27:53] Again, I couldn’t agree more. You know, I think we’re still in relatively early days for this space for business identity in particular. I think we’re seeing massive, massive strides made on the consumer front regarding ID, and I hope we’re going to see the requisite investment and attention paid to its, you know, counterpart in the business world to land the plane, so to speak. Opportunity for what I like to call a shameless plug. Scott If folks who are listening are interested in learning more about LegitScript, getting in touch with you, or becoming LegitScript customers, what is the best place for them to go?
Scott Roth [00:28:33] Yeah, we would love to have a conversation with you. I often joke we’re kind of like the coolest company that nobody knows about or not enough people know about. So go to the Jets Trip.com. Learn about us there. If you want to connect or follow me on LinkedIn, that’s probably the best way to do it for me personally. And yeah, we are in growth and expansion mode, and so we’re really eager to connect with other folks that we might be able to help out, even if the things that you see on our website are not exactly what you’re looking for. We’re also always pretty opportunistic to figure out if there are ways that we can help serve people’s needs.
Cameron D’Ambrosi [00:29:12] Amazing. Scott, thank you again for your time. Greatly appreciate it. Tremendous insights, as always. And again, an area that I think is primed for really explosive growth because it’s so critical and such an intense area of need in the identity ecosystem. Great catching up with you and we will talk to you again soon.
Scott Roth [00:29:34] Yeah, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks again for having me on.
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