Model variable importance - Amazon Fraud Detector

Model variable importance

Model variable importance is a feature of Amazon Fraud Detector that ranks model variables within a model version. Each model variable is provided a value based on its relative importance to the overall performance of your model. The model variable with the highest value is more important to the model than the other model variables in the dataset for that model version, and is listed at the top by default. Likewise, the model variable with the lowest value is listed at the bottom by default and is least important compared to the other model variables. Using model variable importance values, you can gain insight into what inputs are driving your model’s performance.

You can view model variable importance values for your trained model version in the Amazon Fraud Detector console or by using the DescribeModelVersion API.

Model variable importance provides the following set of values for each Variable used to train the Model Version.

  • Variable Type: Type of variable (for example, IP address or Email). For more information, see Variable types. For Account Takeover Insights (ATI) models, Amazon Fraud Detector provides variable importance value for both raw and aggregate variable type. Raw variable types are assigned to the variables that you provide. Aggregate variable type is assigned to a set of raw variables that Amazon Fraud Detector has combined to calculate an aggregated importance value.

  • Variable Name: Name of the event variable that was used to train the model version (for example, ip_address, email_address, are_creadentials_valid). For aggregated variable type, the names of all variables that were used to calculate the aggregated variable importance value are listed.

  • Variable Importance Value: A number that represents the relative importance of the raw or aggregated variable to the model's performance. Typical range: 0–10

In the Amazon Fraud Detector console, the model variable importance values are displayed as follows for either an Online Fraud Insights (OFI) or an Transaction Fraud Insights (TFI) model. An Account Takeover Insight (ATI) model will provide aggregated variable importance values in addition to the raw variable's importance values. The visual chart makes it easy to see the relative importance between variables with the vertical dotted line providing reference to the importance value of the highest ranked variable.

Model variable importance chart.

Amazon Fraud Detector generates variable importance values for every Fraud Detector model version at no additional cost.


Model versions that were created before July 9, 2021 do not have variable importance values. You must train a new version of your model to generate the model variable importance values.

Using model variable importance values

You can use model variable importance values to gain insight into what is driving performance of your model up or down and which of variables contribute the most. And then tweak your model to improve overall performance.

More specifically, to improve your model performance, examine the variable importance values against your domain knowledge and debug issues in the training data. For example, if Account Id was used as an input to the model and it is listed at the top, take a look at its variable importance value. If the variable importance value is significantly higher than the rest of the values, then your model might be overfitting on a specific fraud pattern (for example, all the fraud events are from the same Account Id). However, it might also be the case that there is a label leakage if the variable depends on the fraud labels. Depending on the outcome of your analysis based on your domain knowledge, you might want to remove the variable and train with a more diverse dataset, or keep the model as it is.

Similarly, take a look at the variables ranked last. If the variable importance value is significantly lower than the rest of the values, then this model variable might not have any importance in training your model. You could consider removing the variable to train a simpler model version. If your model has few variables, such as only two variables, Amazon Fraud Detector still provides the variable importance values and rank the variables. However, the insights in this case will be limited.

  1. If you notice variables missing in the Model variable importance chart, it might be due to one of the following reasons. Consider modifying the variable in your dataset and retrain your model.

    • The count of unique values for the variable in the training dataset is lower than 100.

    • Greater than 0.9 of values for the variable are missing from the training data-set.

  2. You need to train a new model version every time that you want to adjust your model’s input variables.

Evaluating model variable importance values

We recommend that you consider the following when you evaluate model variable importance values:

  • Variable importance values must always be evaluated in combination with the domain knowledge.

  • Examine variable importance value of a variable relative to the variable importance value of the other variables within the model version. Do not consider variable importance value for a single variable independently.

  • Compare variable importance values of the variables within the same model version. Do not compare variable importance values of the same variables across model versions because the variable importance value of a variable in a model version might differ from the value of the same variable in a different model version. If you use the same variables and dataset to train different model versions, this does not necessarily generate the same variable importance values.

Viewing model variable importance ranking

After model training is complete, you can view model variable importance ranking of your trained model version in the Amazon Fraud Detector console or by using the DescribeModelVersion API.

To view the model variable importance ranking using console,
  1. Open the AWS Console and sign in to your account. Navigate to Amazon Fraud Detector.

  2. In the left navigation pane, choose Models.

  3. Choose your model and then your model version.

  4. Make sure that the Overview tab is selected.

  5. Scroll down to view the Model variable importance pane.

Understanding how the model variable importance value is calculated

Upon completion of each model version training, Amazon Fraud Detector automatically generates model variable importance values and model’s performance metrics. For this, Amazon Fraud Detector uses SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP). SHAP is essentially the average expected contribution of a model variable after all possible combinations of all model variables have been considered.

SHAP first assigns contribution of each model variable for prediction of an event. Then, it aggregates these predictions to create a ranking of the variables at the model level. To assign contributions of each model variable for a prediction, SHAP considers differences in model outputs among all possible variable combinations. By including all possibilities of including or removing specific set of variables to generate a model output, SHAP can accurately access the importance of each model variable. This is particularly important when the model variables are highly correlated with one another.

ML models, in most cases, do not allow you to remove variables. You can instead replace a removed or missing variable in the model with the corresponding variable values from one or more baselines (for example, non-fraud events). Choosing proper baseline instances can be difficult, but Amazon Fraud Detector makes this easy by setting this baseline as the population average for you.