Consumer worries about credit card fraud have resulted in numerous protections being created. A consumer whose credit card is wrongly used by another generally has one hundred percent protection.
This consumer protection is wonderful. After all, none of us want to suffer the damages of identity theft or credit card fraud. The idea of a thieving stranger creating thousands of dollars of additional debt for us or cleaning out our bank account on lark is a frightening one. As consumers, we all want and need protection from this kind of criminal activity.
The other side of the consumer protection coin however, is not quite as shiny for those involved with the other end of the transaction. All deals involve two parties: a buyer and a seller. Unfortunately, it seems, every gain made by one party produces a loss for the other. It appears to be a zero-sum game, and merchants who process credit card orders are learning that the consumer protections they love when a bank card is misplaced can be a horrible burden on the other side of the proverbial cash register. As consumer safety and care is maximized, merchants lose out.
Consider a fraudulent credit card transaction. A consumer has her credit card stolen and it is used to place an online order for a product. The merchant processes the card, ships the product and believes the matter is complete. Only later does the merchant find out that the transaction was invalid and a byproduct of fraud. What happens to everyone involved?
The consumer loses nothing. After noticing and pointing out the problem, she is refunded for the fraudulent act. There may some inconvenience and fright involved when one realizes they were victimized, but the card issuer will make sure the consumer does not suffer a financial loss from the act of fraud.
What happens to the credit card company? Well, the issuing bank is certainly not willing to calmly accept a financial loss in every case of credit card fraud. They refund the money to the customer, but they plan to get that money back. Do they accomplish this via some form of fraud insurance or a governmental program designed to protect them from criminal activity? No. Instead, they reclaim the money from the merchant.
The merchant receives a retrieval notice during the investigation of the fraud and, if the claim of malfeasance holds water, will then be issued a chargeback for the amount of the illegal charge. The merchant account provider will take the money once received. To make matters worse, the merchant will probably be charged an additional fee for the administration of the chargeback. In situations where a merchant has been victimized repeatedly, his ability to maintain a merchant account may be put into jeopardy. Of course, the previously shipped product is usually unrecoverable, too.
The merchant is the last person in line for any fraud remedy. If the buck stops anywhere, it stops with the person who made the sale. As such, it is essential that merchants take steps to protect themselves from credit card fraud. The steps that must be taken are generally a matter of self-help, too. There is no organized effort afoot to better protect merchants. Instead, the emphasis is consistently placed upon protecting consumer interests.
What can a merchant do to better protect his or her business from credit card fraud? A few tactics seem to help insulate merchants from the problem.
We will be considering this problem primarily from the perspective of a merchant who does the predominance of his or her business online or via telephone. Those who transact business in traditional environments have opportunities to obtain signatures and to check identification that are usually not available to their more “virtual” counterparts.
The first is use of AVS technology. AVS (Address Verification Service) refers to the technology that allows merchants to input information regarding the credit card’s billing address that can be obtained from the buyer. When the card is processed for a sale, the merchant is informed whether or not the information matches that which is on file with the credit card company. Disparities indicate that possible wrongdoing may be afoot. This gives merchants a chance to intervene prior to deciding to accept or deny a questionable order and can reduce the instances of fraudulent transactions.
Of course, it is very possible for scammers to know the billing address information. Thus, AVS alone is not an adequate means of protection. Perceptive merchants also avail themselves to the use of CVV2 codes. These codes, usually comprised of a few digits on the reverse of a credit card, can be requested during a transaction. If the numbers fail to match, fraud may be present. The use of these codes can reduce credit card victimization considerably. However, if a thief has the card in his or her possession, the CVV2 code will be available for use, even in a case of fraud. The codes provide an extra layer of protection but still allow a space in which criminals can work.
That space can be filled through a variety of other defenses. For instance, merchants can opt to ship goods only to the billing address associated with the credit card. This prevents thieves from having an opportunity to secure the items they are purchasing and can reduce instances of fraud dramatically.
Merchants can also require a copy of identification and some form of signature before completing a transaction. For online merchants and those doing the bulk of their business via telephone, this can be a time consuming and inconvenient process that may result in lost sales. However, it can be an effective way of deterring fraud on larger orders of a questionable nature.
In some cases, reported instances of credit card fraud are really nothing of the sort. The cardholders themselves simply decide they are unwilling or unable to pay for the goods they did, indeed, order. They then seek a refund by claiming fraud. This kind of first-party fraud serves as strong justification for all merchants to maintain all information and paperwork related to every transaction.
Discerning which transactions are most likely to be fraudulent and approaching them with a higher degree of skepticism is a powerful means by which fraud one can avoid fraud. In some ways, the best defense against credit card fraud is to know one’s business and developing the ability to spot irregularities in orders. This includes looking more closely at oddly sized or timed purchases as well as considering the nation of origin for an order. Many countries are known to be the home of some of the most prolific scammers and fraud networks and orders from these locale demand careful attention.
Merchants truly must protect themselves, and one of the best ways of doing is so is to develop an almost instinctive ability to sense problematic transactions. A healthy dose of skepticism, bordering perhaps on paranoia when involved with a very unusual sale, can probably spare a merchant from credit card fraud as often as any of the other techniques mentioned.
However, the best defense against credit card fraud is to use all of the defenses. One should not think in terms of a single foolproof solution. At this point, none exists. Instead, the merchant must try to find layers of defense against fraud. This includes taking action at all levels of the sales process and closely tracking the nature and type of sales.
It seems almost unfair that a merchant must be so diligent in defending against fraud when a consumer needs must only make a simple toll-free call to get complete resolution of the problem. However, that is the nature of the current credit card transaction landscape. Effectively navigating the treacherous terrain requires a great deal of attention and concern on the merchant’s end.
Some may argue that consumers lose a great deal of money every year from credit card fraud. However, their losses are generally temporary. Credit card companies may also announce that fraud damages their business considerably. There is, inarguably, a great deal of expense borne in handling those issues at the level of the card company. However, the real loser in the credit card fraud world is the merchant, who is left holding the bag. Merchants are the true and final victims of fraud. Thus, they have no choice but to defend themselves in order to prevent repeated victimization.