Neal St. Anthony
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Founder Adam Elliott’s software company ID Insight is sort of a microbrewer in the land of the Budweisers that dominate the technology war against cybercriminals.

“I think we’ve created a pretty good brew,” said Elliott, whose six-person company is being recognized for helping hundreds of banks and credit unions quickly detect when an account is illicitly being taken over.

“It’s a case-management system that we built at the request of a large customer,” Elliott said. “Our system accesses billions of data points quickly and applies advanced analytics so that we can direct the banks to likely identity theft that is underway. They direct their investigators.”

ID Insight has about 600 bank-and-credit union customers.

ID Insight’s latest and newest development has drawn trade press in the bank-security industry and made the northeast Minneapolis company a finalist in last week’s Minnesota High Tech Association’s Tekne Awards in the “applied analytics” category.

ID Insight’s patented search technology combines what Elliott calls a “Google-like search experience with government-grade security” that allows financial customers to search millions of records daily for fraud-related patterns in speedy, secure fashion.

The favored tactic of many electronic fraudsters is to take over an account by contacting the bank with at least some identifying information and requesting a credit card or checks for a new address. If the bank complies, an “account takeover” has occurred.

It means trauma for the consumer and financial losses for the bank. And 15 percent of bank customers change their address annually. So, it’s important to ferret out the fraudulent requests.

ID Insight’s new product, dubbed Seek, is being recognized for the speed with which its tools can analyze changes made with bank-encrypted customer data in the cloud against a host of credit bureau and other publicly available information.

“We see fraud rings where hundreds of people are supposedly moving to the same vacant lot or a UPS store in Dallas, L.A., south Florida or Atlanta,” Elliott said. “We score the data, give it back to the customer and they look at these types of situations.”

The new technology is the latest development that has been integrated into ID Insight’s fraud prevention software platform.

Elliott says one big bank has averted $20 million in fraud loss thanks to ID Insight solutions over the last couple years. That means thousands of customers were protected from ID theft.

The huge volume of data breaches in recent years has stocked the shelves of the “dark web” and other sources of illegally obtained consumer data with a massive supply of raw material for the cyber bad guys.

One local banker, Marc Cove, a founder of Platinum Bank, said in a statement: “The ability to search and identify potential fraud risks quickly was critically important to us as we sought to protect our customers and mitigate losses. ID Insight’s solution really has no peer when it comes to securely and affordably searching sensitive data.”

The industry has noticed ID Insight.

“Why are 25 people from all over the country moving to a vacant lot in Brooklyn?” asked a recent article in the trade publication Banking Exchange. “Adam Elliott not only asks questions like that, his company … was founded on designing algorithms that can help companies like banks ask such questions in an automated fashion.”

Elliott, 50, is a mathematician out of St. Olaf College who earned a master’s degree in statistics from Penn State University.

He worked in data analysis for several companies before joining bank-service firm Deluxe Corp. in the 1990s and running the data-security business of an electronic subsidiary that was sold to a larger firm.

He started ID Insight in 2003 and took on additional shareholders to survive the Great Recession years.

“We’ve been growing since 2010,” he said, noting revenue is approaching $2 million for the profitable company.

Elliott contends there’s more value to build. He expects the company, which operates from a renovated warehouse in northeast Minneapolis, may double in size next year.

But he says he’s not interested in selling yet; remaining small has its advantages.

“We’re nimble,” he says. “I don’t need to go through 45 focus groups and layers of corporate people.”

Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.