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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 27, 2015 • Issue 15:04:02

Help merchants mitigate shoppers' fears of data theft

By Hugh Sinclair

Major retailers have been hit hard by data breaches, which account for millions of cardholders' personal information being stolen. These breaches can affect any business, as we saw with The Home Depot Inc., eBay Inc. and Target Corp., who all suffered massive losses. And nothing is more embarrassing or detrimental to a merchant's reputation than making headlines for such a reason. In this digital age our vulnerability is at an all-time-high, so it's important that shoppers can trust their preferred merchant brands. To help you assist merchants in your portfolio, this article contains safety measures merchants can implement to help safeguard data and reassure consumers their personal information is as secure as possible.

Reducing the risk

As you know, an incredible amount of data is collected from customers every time they use a card to complete a transaction. Despite admonitions against storing cardholder data, retailers sometimes store card numbers and personal identification numbers within their networks for a long time, which puts consumers at considerable risk. For instance, Target's data breach involved stored, encrypted PIN numbers being hacked. To minimize damage in the event of an intrusion, remind your merchant clients there is no significant reason to store these numbers – and certainly not for an extended period.

Restoring customer confidence

Most consumers are well aware of the recent data breaches, and their confidence in companies' ability to protect their information is low. According to Pew Research Center, 91 percent of adults agree or strongly agree that they have lost control over how personal information is collected, used and stored by businesses they frequent.

Their concerns aren't limited to how retailers handle information; they have reservations about financial institutions and government organizations, as well. It's disconcerting to think that every time they give out a phone number or swipe a card, people have no idea how much information is being stored. And after the wave of big data breaches, individuals now see just how vulnerable they are. Recent Honeywell research found that 7 in 10 people were highly concerned about the security of their credit and debit card information. These worries need to be addressed to reassure consumers that their information is in good hands.

Taking action

However, retailers need to do more than merely issue written statements to make people feel secure again. One important thing you can do is provide your merchants with account management tools that will make it easy to monitor activity. Also encourage merchants to emphasize with their customers the reporting of suspicious charges immediately, and suggest they offer phone service to their shoppers specifically for that purpose – if it's in their budget. Retailers can also make online and in-store security the topic of blog posts and offer pointers that will help consumers protect themselves more effectively. In addition, inform your merchants of any security updates and enhanced features they can adopt to keep customer data safe. All of these measures should help to restore consumer confidence in their businesses.

Strengthening security measures

It goes without saying that security measures should be strengthened to deter cybercriminals from hacking into sensitive information. This means being vigilant about Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance, and more. As more shoppers make purchases online and on the go, it becomes extremely important to encrypt web information and protect it with the latest SSL technology. Encourage your merchants to use secured, locked pages so their customers can shop safely and the likelihood of harmful incidents is lessened dramatically.

Remind merchants to let consumers know they are taking online security very seriously. In addition to providing updates on new security features, merchants can also create a dedicated page, or a section of the privacy policy, and devote it to explaining the measures they take to protect their customers. This will increase the level of trust between your merchants and their clientele, which will translate into more revenue for you. end of article

Hugh Sinclair is Vice President of Logistics at ShoppingBlitz based in Union, N.J. He can be reached at hugh@worldblitzllc.com. For more information, visit ,a href='http://www.shoppingblitz.com' target="blank">www.shoppingblitz.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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