By Kevin Deveau

The holiday season is now behind us and with all the sales, promotions, new products, gift-giving occasions and well wishes sent and received, organizations will have plenty of engagements with their new and existing customers.

Unfortunately, any gift-giving season can be a hotbed for different forms of fraud, which if fallen victim to, can tarnish an organization’s bottom line and reputation. As e-commerce continues to grow astronomically each year, the risks are even greater.

Here are a few tips for organizations to make it through the yearly shopping seasons, while avoiding those who might be after your profits or data.

Be mindful of your vendors
Alas there are many (and growing) ways for fraudsters to access your systems, which is why organizations must be mindful of who they interact or share sensitive information with. Materials shared via e-mail to partners or vendors could be easily accessed if breaches were to occur.

What you can do. Make cybersecurity preparedness a consideration when signing new vendors. Tools exist that allow organizations to score their cybersecurity preparedness, and a confident vendor should be willing to discuss their strategies with you. Share sensitive information through encrypted messages, if possible, or through file-share services that require additional sign-ons to access.

Prepare your team
This is probably the easiest and most effective way to protect your organization. No matter the industry, reminding your team of the types of fraud they could potentially encounter can ensure they are capable of mitigating potentially harmful situations, or better yet, avoiding them all together.

Some of these situations could include:

  • “Friendly” fraud. Friendly fraud occurs when legitimate customers request their funds returned for purchases made by mistake, such as ordering too many of items, forgetting that they made the purchases altogether or accidently opting into recurring subscriptions. Friendly fraudsters will likely seem genuinely confused and nonaggressive about the dispute.
    What you can do. Send prompting confirmations following purchases by e-mail, text messages or both. Provide options for package tracking and delivery updates to customers, so they have a number of incoming reminders of their purchases throughout the transactions;
  • Chargeback fraud. It can be difficult to differentiate between friendly fraud and chargeback fraud, which can often look the same, but this type occurs when the fraud is purposeful and malicious. These fraudsters may claim that their cards were compromised or that their products were not delivered. Chargeback fraud is akin to shoplifting in today’s e-commerce-rich retail environment. Customers committing chargeback fraud will often dodge attempts of the organization to contact them to discuss the disputes, and when reached, will likely deny having any interaction with your web site or company.
    What you can do. In some cases of chargeback fraud, you’ll have to cut your losses, but keeping track of this activity can alert you to suspicious purchases. In some cases, you can decrease the instance of chargeback fraud by ensuring that your customer service policies are as clear as possible. If return policies are fair, clearly communicated and easy to navigate, you might avoid customers turning to chargeback fraud to compensate for purchases they are unhappy with. During high-volume seasons like the holidays be sure to encourage employees to remind customers of your policies at check out in-store, and ensure they are easy to access online; and
  • Phishing scams. During the chaos of returns and exchanges, your organization could receive a lot of e-mails from customers or vendors. While most are harmless, some could be filled with dangerous links. One wrong click is often all it takes for hackers to gain access to all of your company’s internal data. This not only results in expensive remediation, but also a hit to your organization’s reputation.

What you can do. Be wary of unknown senders and review e-mails critically. Ensure that the senders’ e-mails are actually coming from the organizations they are claiming to belong and contact them via phone if you have concerns about legitimacy. Remind your employees and remind them again.

The best long-term play in the fight against fraud is employing self-learning artificial intelligence (AI) fraud monitoring technology with an algorithm built to your business. AI solutions can catch the long-term patterns of fraud that the naked eye alone cannot. When these triggers appear, they prompt your organization to take a closer look at the purchases and allows time to decide if they are legitimate or not. This can be determined by sending out verification links, contacting customers via phone or by layering in additional security measures.

Build trust with customers
Organizations aren’t the only ones at risk of falling victim to fraud over the holidays. Individual consumers are at an increased risk as well: they have to decide who to trust with their data and their money.

Here are four things your organization can also do to build trust with consumers.

1. Enable user reviews. Allow verified customers to provide their honest feedback. This will ensure that future customers know that your services and products are legitimate and can improve the chances that their purchases will be delivered as expected.
2. Ensure customers can contact you. Make online and phone contact details easy to find so that customers are able to get the answers from your representatives without delay. While “frequently asked questions” pages can be helpful, often there are specific questions that require individual attention.
3. Offer alternative payment means. Many Canadian consumers are still warming up to the idea of shopping online. By accepting a variety of payment methods, you can allow customers to feel confident in their purchases and with your ability as an organization to handle their data.
4. Provide trustmarks and information on security and privacy policies. If you have worked hard to provide your customers with a safe and secure shopping experience, let them know. Including trustmarks and deep dives into your organization’s privacy policies shows your customers that you are taking the matter of their security seriously. Customers want the ease of experience found in online shopping, but don’t want to be left vulnerable as a result.

With the recent holidays behind us, take advantage of this time of year to engage with your customers, show your appreciation and provide great experiences that can result in loyalty throughout the year. Taking steps to ensure your organization is prepared, reliable and secure can make the shopping experience more enjoyable for your employees and your customers and can have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Kevin Deveau is vice president and managing director, FICO Canada.

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