Want a Safe Summer Season? Here is How To Prevent Financial Risks
We are deep in the heart of the summer travel and shopping seasons, which means more of us are getting out, getting on the road, and exploring new places. Tourism and travel help boost our economy, and promote prosperity among many communities across the nation. However, this time of year also creates serious dangers when it comes to the safety and security of your financial information. The last thing you need is to go out of town, only to get stranded because some enterprising thief or hacker managed to steal your credit or banking information. Likewise, you could find your vacation fund has disappeared or your credit card maxed out through no fault of your own. Rather than take the chance of a ruined summer, now if the time to take action. As you look toward a season of family fun, you should take precautions to safeguard your financial health. If you own a retail business, you also need to understand the threats facing your customers, and see the dangers from their perspectives. Here are some areas in which you, as a consumer and/or business owner, can avoid fraud risk through smart vigilance:
- Online shopping—While we all think of the fourth quarter as the season of sales, many retail areas ramp up their advertising efforts, especially in certain genres. For example, big-ticket items like computers and cameras typically go on sale during the summer to attract college students, while items like lawn equipment and swing sets crop on clearance toward the end of the season. As such, retailers want to drive traffic to their sites. If you do want to take advantage of seasonal savings, how can you do so safely? First, if you get an email advertisement from a retailer, avoid clicking the provided link, as you cannot be sure that the email is genuinely from that retailer. Hackers go to great lengths to disguise phishing emails as the real deal. Instead, go directly to the retailer’s website and find the sale information there. Next, check that your online retailer’s check-out process conforms to commonsense best practices for transaction security in e-commerce. Do they ask for your CCV code? Does the process seem to be in line with what you expect from online transactions? If anything seems off, do not proceed with the purchase. If you are a business owner, double check that your site is functioning and that your security remains up to date. Your IT professional should help you monitor any unusual activity while advising you on any threats to your online transaction security.
- Traveling notifications—Many banking and credit institutions have put safety precautions in place to spot and freeze unusual activity on your account. They identify trends in your spending so that, if unusual activity occurs, they can stop it as soon as possible. For example, if you live in Florida, and sudden begin making vacations transactions in Toronto, your provider will probably freeze your account under the assumption you have been hacked. Before you travel, you should notify any banking and credit agencies where and when you will be going. They can temporarily suspend your location alerts so that you are able to use your accounts without interruption. For business owners, this area becomes a little murkier. If someone’s card is declined, they can become very embarrassed and frustrated, especially if they do not realize that their institutions have the safety measure in place for credit card transaction security. While you want to have a healthy level of observation for suspicious activity and potential fraud, you also do not want to alienate genuine customers who may not realize their accounts are now frozen or why. Be polite and diplomatic, while offering encouragement that they may just need to contact their provider about this very common occurrence, especially if you know the customer is from out of town.
- Receipt management and security—In high-traffic tourist areas, some less-than-honorable service providers may take advantage of small mistakes on your part. When shopping or eating out on vacation, be sure to always keep your receipts, and sign any credit transactions. If not, someone could take advantage of you without you ever really noticing. For example, imagine you are eating out at a busy hotspot and you forget to keep your copy of the receipt that includes the tip. If a server decides to give him or herself a little boost by entering in the wrong tip amount, you need the ability to dispute the transaction. Even if you are not a fraud victim, a good accounting of your vacation expenditures can help you feel confident that that an unfamiliar charge was not illegitimate, you simply forgot about it and your receipt reminded you of that. If you are a business owner, train your staff and stay on top of them about providing accurate receipts and ensuring customers sign their copies. Even the most secure payment processing procedures can fail if human error or malintent is involved.
- Commonsense prevention—Your vacation or travels should be fun, but even the most tech-savvy banking and credit card transaction risk management solutions cannot overcome a lack of attentiveness on your part, whether you are the customer or the business owner. Follow all of those tips for safe travels, like keeping your wallet secure and being vigilant about suspicious persons or activity. Be on the lookout for ATMs, gas pumps or vending machines that look “off” in terms of credit card swipers, as they may have skimmers attached. As a business owner, don’t let a busy season prevent you from exercising payment processing best practices. If someone wants a credit card processed, check for identification, rather than letting him or her sign the receipt hurriedly. Your best protection comes from constant, commonsense vigilance.
As you prepare for a fun summer season, remember to look for a merchant account service provider to help promote the very best equipment, service, and solutions for secure payment processing. We want you to have a memorable and prosperous season free from financial worry.
Contact us to learn more about payment transaction security and our risk-free consultation. Discover how our clients have reduced their processing rate and increased their processing volume. Contact me at +1 (800) 719-9198 for solutions.