Keeping the Holidays Free from Fraud: Tips for Your Business

Small Business Owner working during the holidays

Soaring sales during the holiday season can give your small business the boost it needs to end the year on a high note. Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters are eager to grab their share of your profits. According to the 2019 American Express Digital Payments Survey, almost 30% of the sales ended up as fraudulent transactions and 69% of U.S. merchants are spending significant company time and expense resolving payment fraud.

Don’t let these thieves turn an otherwise prosperous holiday sales season into a nightmare. Follow these simple steps to protect your small business this holiday season.

Encrypt Your payment Information

If you sell goods over the Internet, be sure to use address verification (AVS) and card verification code (CVC)—an effective first line of defense to flag thieves who are using stolen credit cards. It’s vital to fully encrypt all points of payment (using end-to-end encryption) to ensure that your company and customer information doesn’t get hacked.

Be on the Lookout for Suspicious Sales

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns businesses to be wary of unusually large orders placed online without any contact from the customer, or rush orders for large quantities or for expensive goods. Other red flags include orders shipped to a different address than the billing address; orders from foreign countries; and billing addresses that don’t match the information on file with the credit card company. While any one of these things alone doesn’t point to a stolen credit card, if several factors are present, it’s wise to be suspicious and investigate the legitimacy of the purchase, Attard advises. Call the customer to verify the order if suspicions do arise — and don’t ship the merchandise if you can’t reach him/her.

Watch and Educate your Employees

Employees with the best of intentions could bring a malware attack into your business while holiday shopping at work or by opening an infected email attachment. Malware can also be attached to free demos or free online services.

To help protect your business, ensure that anti-virus software is installed on any business computer and that employees use a virus scan before opening new programs or files. Of course, it is also critical to change passwords often. Consider offering an internal refresher course on safe Internet use and make sure to cover what to look for in suspicious emails.

Be Observant

Thieves can tamper with your company’s credit card terminals to steal credit card information by attaching a card skimmer — a small device that steals payment card information — to the terminal. Be attentive and train your employees to be vigilant in regularly inspecting credit card terminals to spot any extraneous devices.

Keep Your Wallet and Credit Cards Close

Your company credit card will undoubtedly get quite a workout during the holiday season, as you stock up merchandise and buy gifts for employees and vendors. If you intend to share your credit card with an employee to make purchases, make sure they clearly understand the company’s financial policies. When you hit the stores, never leave your wallet or purse unattended. It only takes a few seconds for a thief to steal your wallet and all the personal information it contains. Also, never let your credit card out of your sight or let a salesperson take it somewhere you can’t see it, since handheld “skimming machines”—which record your card information—can be hidden in a hand or under a counter.

For more information about potential security breaches and steps you can take to protect your small business, visit the Sontiq resource center.

Tips to Protect Your Business

  1. Step up your vigilance. Monitoring your company’s bank and credit card accounts regularly is more important than ever during the holiday shopping months and just after. Look for the activity you didn’t initiate and keep a frequent eye on your account balance.
  2. Be sure to shred sensitive documents. Any gift receipts, bills or banking statements should go through the shredder to prevent thieves from sifting through your business’ garbage to find the personal or business information they need to commit fraud.

  3. Protect your Passwords. It’s a good idea to change your company’s passwords and PINs before, during or after the holiday season, in order to throw off thieves who may have gained access to them through data breaches. Also, make sure each member of your staff uses a different password to access company data—in the event of a security breach, the password can then be used to trace the fraud.

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*Originally posted November 19, 2014. Updated November 23, 2020.*


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Eugene is the Director, Technology and Security of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. He oversees the architecture of the...
Read more about Eugene Bekker.

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