Crack the underwriting code with Mission Compliance

Web Shield Marketing
February 7, 2024
 min read

Join Web Shield’s Andreas Stedry and Franz Reinhöfer as they explore payment ecosystems, fraud prevention, and the intricate world of underwriting in "Mission Compliance."  Tailored for underwriters and professionals dealing with merchant accounts, this comprehensive guide offers a witty glimpse into the complexities of the industry. Through clear definitions and real-life examples, these seasoned underwriting professionals use their wealth of knowledge to cast an entertaining light on the latest underwriting trends.

Who is this book for?

"Mission Compliance" is a must-read for underwriters, sales reps, and anyone engaged in the multifaceted landscape of merchant accounts. Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to the field, the book provides valuable perspectives, strategies, and practical approaches to enhance your expertise.

Discover the tools to stay ahead in the industry:

Available in both paperback and ebook formats, Mission Compliance is now accessible through various online retailers, including Amazon and Medimops. Elevate your understanding, sharpen your skills, and fortify your risk assessment practices in the ever-evolving world of financial compliance.

Here is an extract of the book for you to get a better idea of what to expect:

Website traffic analysis in the context of merchant onboarding

Following our review of the clearly perceivable aspects, we will now extend our analysis of the merchant’s website beyond the immediately apparent. Understanding website usage data is crucial in quickly uncovering merchants who aim to deceive. Simply put, website traffic metrics are difficult to fake, and a knowledgeable underwriter can determine whether traffic appears genuine and organic or has been tampered with.

The key metrics we will focus on are visitor count, bounce rate, audience geography, and traffic sources.

Visitor count

The estimated number of visitors frequenting a website can take various shapes when presented on a line chart.

At the outset, however, let us focus on the simplest question: Are there any visitors to the website at all?

Websites without any visitors may be newly set up, so the common analysis tools do not have sufficient data to issue an estimate yet. Or they simply do not attract any visitors.

In both cases, the lack of, or very low, website traffic should impact the merchant’s ability to generate sales and result in very few transactions.

Therefore, whenever we observe a misalignment between visitor count and transaction volume we should take note, as websites used as fronts for transaction laundering typically have no organic visitors.

Fig. 5: A ‘normal’ pattern of website traffic

Next, let us examine the ebbs and flows of website traffic, with our main interest being steep increases and declines and, more importantly, their causes.

It is essential to use common sense when interpreting traffic statistics. A sudden spike and plummet in visitor count shortly could be a sign of artificially increased website traffic through bots or click farms, used to aggressively promote a deceptive agenda. The best way to imagine click farms is a sweatshop of the digital age. Their primary purpose is to generate many clicks or views on digital content.

Fig. 6: A suspicious pattern of website traffic

On the other hand, high traffic could also be the result of a regular advertisement, a popular coupon code valid for a short time only, a trending post on social media, or a seasonal sale.

To avoid jumping to false conclusions, we need to analyse the data as a whole and avoid looking at the visitor count in isolation.


MCC 5816: Digital goods: Games

“Merchants that develop video or electronic games for play on smartphones, feature phones, personal computers, tablets, consoles, or other devices with networking capability. Such games may provide platforms to make “in-application” purchases of electronic or virtual items for use during play, including but not limited to game pieces, tokens, points, or other forms of game-specific value.”15

Marketing channels

Fig. 18: Example website traffic for a merchant with the MCC 5816

Similar to website traffic for other digital goods merchants, it is hard to determine the average traffic for merchants using this MCC.

As before, it depends on the type of merchant we are dealing with. In this area, there are a few well-established service providers such as Steam, Epic or GOG, which typically have three major traffic sources: Most users access these websites directly, through referrals, or via searches on one of the big search engines.

However, the situation is entirely different when dealing with smaller merchants offering digital games and in-game items. While third-party in-game item marketplaces benefit from high direct and referral traffic, this changes completely with merchants offering games via subscriptions or other models. These merchant websites usually generate most of their traffic through display ads.


Business partnerships with a digital goods merchant specialising in games carry notable risks for our networks. As we have already seen with the previous MCC, the main concern lies in the ownership and distribution rights of the games and the in-game content they provide.

Typically, game publishers have strict policies regarding the distribution of their intellectual property and in-game items. Take the American game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. for example. According to their

end-user agreement, they prohibit the sale of any items, products, or services in their games for money.

An often-disregarded risk arises from websites offering digital games that allow users to exchange their money for virtual in-game currency. These coins are then used for entry into competitions that offer prizes to the highest-ranking players. This commonly happens after an account has been established, enticing cardholders to convert real money into play coins to partake in these contests. Such occurrences invariably demand additional due diligence.

In such cases, it becomes imperative to change the MCC associated with this merchant account to either 7994 if dealing with a skill-based gaming merchant, or 7995 if pure luck is involved, and subsequently enrol them in the Mastercard Registration Program.

It is worth noting that Visa considers merchants that would usually fall under the MCC 7994 as belonging to the MCC 5816 (Tier 2 high-integrity risk merchant in VIRP), hence this re-coding would only be needed for merchants with a Mastercard MID.

Pick up your copy

Typically, this is where we would delve into the mitigation section, providing you with all the insights and strategies to handle those risks like a seasoned pro. However, for the complete rundown, pick up your copy of "Mission Compliance” and learn how to overcome the problems for this MCC and many more.

You can secure your copy from Amazon or several other bookshops, both as a physical book or an eBook. Mission Compliance is more than just a guide to risk mitigation; it's your comprehensive manual for mastering underwriting and staying ahead in the industry. Enjoy the read!

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