Engineering 101

AI-Powered Chatbot Boosts Fraud Victim Support

Facing increased demand for real-time and personalized digital experiences, organizations are turning to virtual assistants and chatbots to engage with consumers in new ways, at any hour. SAS, the global analytics leader, has partnered with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) to develop a customized virtual assistant to help fraud victims. The virtual assistant is built with SAS Viya.

“With advances in conversational AI, chatbots and digital assistants have become mainstream and are being applied across many industries like financial services, retail and healthcare,” said Saurabh Gupta, Senior Director of Data and Analytics at SAS. “Chatbots powered by SAS offer another way to interact with the entire SAS Viya ecosystem, bringing together reporting and visualization, analytics and AI through a no-code, conversational interface to everyone.”

Pandemic-Fueled Identity Crimes Tax Resources

Demand for live-chat victim support has grown steadily since the ITRC initiated the service in 2014, but 2020 was a year unlike any other.

“We saw record-breaking levels of fraud and identity theft in the wake of the pandemic, which suddenly hit everywhere, all at once,” said ITRC CEO Eva Velasquez. “Last year we served more than 11,000 people through our contact center alone, and our website saw 1.1 million unique visitors. That’s an astounding number of people seeking help – and it requires tremendous workforce effort.

“The idea isn’t to supplant our live advisors but to support and augment them to improve the victim experience. How can we serve more people in real time? And how can we more quickly deliver the information they need and get them on the road to recovery?”

Enter ViViAN, short for Virtual Victim Assistance Network. The ITRC’s new chatbot – or virtual identity theft assistant, as the ITRC prefers.

Conversational AI Creates Humanlike Interactions

Chatbots enable humans to interact with machines using natural language processing (NLP) and instantly get a human-like, intelligent response tailored to the user. Using linguistic rules, machine learning and deep learning, chatbots can interpret complexities in language and improve conversation between human and machine.

These conversational AI – or chatbot – capabilities are embodied in SAS Conversation Designer on the powerful, cloud-native SAS Viya platform. The software delivers the ability to build and configure humanlike conversational experiences and harness data insights for better business decisions.

ViViAN was born through a years-long partnership between the ITRC and SAS and supported through a grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime. Natural language generation is the humanizing technology behind the chatbot’s development. It combines three specific capabilities to create interactive chatbots like ViViAN that can understand and interact with human language:

  • Natural language understanding to help decipher what a user types.
  • Conversation flow to define what is done with that knowledge.
  • Natural language generation to craft an appropriate response.

“Unstructured text data holds a wealth of insights about your business and your customers, both in terms of opportunities and potential risks,” said Gupta. “Using conversational AI and NLP to harness insights from this data can improve business decisions and build relationships with customers in an increasingly virtual business climate. In ITRC’s case, that means extending a virtual lifeline to more identity-crime victims.”

Helping Fraud Victims In Their Hour Of Need

“We know that fraud never sleeps,” said Velasquez. “You don’t necessarily discover you’re an identity theft victim during regular business hours. You can learn about fraud or have a fraud-related question anytime. And now ViViAN is there to offer trusted, credible, customized help exactly when you need it, day or night.”

ViViAN is programmed to empathetically respond to a variety of scenarios most often encountered by live agents. Users start by entering their identity-related issue, which may include:

  • Someone opened a credit card in my name.
  • I lost my wallet [driver’s license, phone, credit card].
  • I responded to a phishing email.
  • I was unable to file my taxes.
  • Someone filed for unemployment insurance in my name.

Through a series of questions and prompts, ViViAN leads the user through each step toward resolution. Some may find everything they need via a single online interaction. For others, ViViAN is just a starting point.

“Some people will need the expertise of a live agent. Having worked with fraud victims, we know it’s such a relief to get information you can act on while waiting to talk to a real person,” said Velasquez. “ViViAN can provide those first steps, complemented later by that live advisor who will follow up and make sure you’re on the path to recovering your identity.”

The latest release of SAS Viya is designed to be delivered and updated continuously. The cloud-native software enables customers to efficiently democratize analytics throughout their organizations, while seamlessly managing analytic workloads and embedding analytics into variety of operational applications for making confident decisions.

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