What Makes Online Payments Secure?

Some people spend a lot of time worrying about credit card fraud and identity theft. And even when they’ve taken every step to keep themselves secure, they get that flutter of panic whenever they see a strange name on their credit card statement or when they feel that ominous screen vibration that precedes ‘Password or Username Incorrect.’ But what really makes transactions safe?

The biggest single factor is encryption, and there are various kinds. Instead of sending a message in plain language, it’s transmitted in the form of a code, and only the recipient has the key that will unlock the code. This means even if someone intercepts the message, they can’t read it.

Follow the PCI example

If you use the type of encryption systems popular at financial institutions, tech firms, or military facilities, you’re in a better position, because you know they go all out to protect their secrets. But first, what information is typically being protected?

  • Credit card numbers
  • Identification details like name, address, or email
  • Security questions
  • Cash amounts transmitted
  • Transaction location

These may not seem like top secret details, but if a crook has access to them, the crook may be able to commit identity theft. Then they can rack up bills using someone else’s credit card information or get access to the cash in someone’s account and drain it.

Fortunately, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Council has detailed directions on how to keep credit card transactions secure. Their recommendations include both physical security and virtual security, so they include suggestions on passwords, physical card handling, firewalls, and security policies. These requirements are voluntary, and they are not enforced by law.

You don’t have to, but you should

Some credit card networks (including Visa) won’t allow their card holders to transact with your business if your credit card processor isn’t approved under PCI. So if you’d like to ensure your customers can pay you, and that their details are secure, sign up with a merchant processor that’s already been vetted by PCI.

Other key steps in keeping online transactions secure include changing default passwords and making sure everyone that touches or processes customer credit cards – either physically or virtually – has their own unique ID. This makes it easier to troubleshoot if anything goes wrong. Your business should also have a written security policy that gets regularly reviewed.

Think of it like a fire drill, but instead, it’s a credit card security drill. It should cover steps to take in case of intercepted online payments.

For more information on what makes online payments secure, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.

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