6 security tips to lower the risk of online transactions for small e-businesses

John Rampton
John Rampton
January 18, 2017

With the global shift from brick-and-mortar to online business, customers are growing to expect to pay online for goods and services. This expectation is no longer reserved for large retail and e-shops; the ability to accept payments via website has become a worldwide standard for businesses big and small.

While the benefits of accepting customer payments online are perfectly clear to most small business owners, occasionally the perceived security risks can still prevent some businesses from offering this option to customers.

One of the greatest advantages of businesses supplying an online payment service for their customers is that the company can then attract and retain the many customers calling for this type of service. In turn, making arrangements to aid their customers’ requests levels the playing field with larger competitors. Still, there have also been older consumers who are concerned that they won’t be able to keep their credit cards safe.

As a small business owner, you know the liability falls firmly on your shoulders should a data breach or some type of hacking occur. Any problems of this nature could mean a damaged reputation, fees and penalties, and loss of business.

Major retailers with monthly revenues in the millions of dollars are usually able to swallow such damages, however, this type of liability could mean a death sentence for a small business owner. Even worse (though the states are looking better)  is the fact that statistics report that 95% of credit card breaches come from small businesses, giving the owner of smaller businesses good reason to worry.

There are many tips that you can put into practice as a small business owner that do not break the bank, which will provide a safer way to accept payments online:

1. Do your research on risk

An easy way to improve your own online payment security is to do research and regularly read up on the recent data breaches, many of which were related to human error. This means it will be of great advantage to help to educate and train any employees you have (right up front) about how to protect against any potential issues that are out there, and then what to look for that could be a sign of fraud or hacking.

2. Get rid of payment information as soon as transaction is complete

Whatever you do, don’t keep or store customer payment data. Technically, it is against the law to keep any of the financial information of your customers, according to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACTA). Keeping any part of payment information, even temporarily, puts your small business at risk. That personal and financial data belonging to your customers is theirs and can be stolen. If you don’t keep it, that risk is gone.

3. Find a secure ecommerce platform and payment processor to partner with

When you secure a trustworthy partner to help you with your ecommerce infrastructure and your payment processing, you can take advantage of all the security measures that come with the partnership. Be sure to do your research first and find out which of the hundreds of payment processors and ecommerce software platforms that are out there are the most reputable and highly rated, especially in being known as having current security measures that are continually updated.

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4. Ensure PCI-DSS compliance

One of the most important ways to protect your small business with online payment acceptance is to carefully follow the compliance regulations and standards established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards. While you may be worried because these compliance standards are known to be highly complex, you might feel you are unable to hire a full-time IT specialist. At the very least, you should consider hiring a consultant to assist with you with an annual data security assessment that will point out those areas that you need to fix and provide a solution to ensure you comply with all PCI-DSS regulations, including the use of SSL authentication.

5. Use data encryption technology to keep sensitive data private

This type of security technology is essential for your small business. It helps you strengthen your online payment system by confirming that the websites you use for transactions are legitimate as well as lowers the risk of sensitive information ending up with criminals that otherwise might get in by figuring out passwords. Think of it as another layer of protection that is so important in today’s online world, where Wi-Fi networks are often compromised and online payment systems hacked.

6. Verify all transactions through multiple strategies

Be on the lookout for anything that is out of the ordinary with your regular customers in terms of a larger-than-normal order or an order request to be shipped to a different address than the one on file. This is when you will want to contact the customer by phone and confirm that it is really them doing this out-of-the-ordinary transaction. Also, be wary of any orders that have strange email addresses, international orders, and a customer who opts out of free shipping or other deals like available coupons. On your online payment form, always ask for the security code on the credit card, which is usually a three- or four-digit number they have on the back of the physical card.

These six strategies for improving your security for online payments mostly require your time versus any considerable investment and are easy to implement almost immediately after reading this article.
You cannot be too protected when it comes to online payment acceptance because there are always criminals out there thinking up new ways to break into your online transactions. Be proactive and you’ll be able to keep your small business and your customers more secure.

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