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PCI compliance is complicated, but it can be conquered

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Payment fraud across all industries is on the rise and a serious concern. One need only accept a credit card payment to become an immediate target to scam artists.

A recent report produced by Juniper Research found that e-commerce merchant losses to online payment fraud will exceed $25 billion in 2024 - this is up from $17 billion in 2020.

In this time of widespread concern around payment fraud, it turns out that there’s a clear roadmap to help protect your business from those wishing to do you harm — I’m referring to PCI compliance. From a physical perspective to software coding, PCI compliance is a guide to best practices on security and processes to help protect you and your business from fraud. By ensuring that your business is PCI compliant, you will be helping prevent data breaches from devastating your company’s reputation, customer relationships, and bottom line. Those in compliance may also minimize liability given a breach –– so let’s dive into what you need to know about PCI compliance.

PCI compliance is a term used to ensure that your business is meeting security standards when accepting credit card payments. These PCI requirements are set by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and are managed by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), which includes the five largest credit card networks: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover and JCB International.

While being PCI compliant is not a requirement by law, it is a requirement by the card brands to the acquirer and in turn to you as the merchant. Any merchant who accepts credit card payments must follow the regulations set by the PCI SSC to avoid any potential data infringement and to avoid hefty non-compliance fees. The requirements for becoming PCI compliant are relative to how your company operates.

There are many areas where your business could have security vulnerabilities and data can be stolen from many areas, including: card readers, payment system databases, wire(less) networks, and paper records. It is critical that you identify any security weaknesses within your company regarding the protection of sensitive cardholder information. The security standards set by PCI DSS are to safeguard both your business and your customers.

There are four levels of PCI compliance - which category your business falls under is determined by how many transactions your business processes annually. PCI DSS applies to all organizations that collect, transmit, or store cardholder data and is divided into several merchant levels, each with different reporting requirements, that are differentiated by the number of transactions processed per year:

Level 1: Merchants processing over 6 million card transactions per year

Level 2: Merchants processing 1 to 6 million transactions per year

Level 3: Merchants handling 20,000 to 1 million transactions per year

Level 4: Merchants handling fewer than 20,000 transactions per year

Making sure that your business complies with all of the PCI DSS security standards is the best way to ensure secure credit card transactions and safeguard your business from a potential data breach, allowing you to save your hard-earned money for building and growing your business. Ultimately, two key principles apply to PCI DSS:

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation: Even if a data breach doesn’t put your company out of business, it’ll severely impact your reputation - which is everything when it comes to business. Customers will distrust you and be less likely to do business with you if you don’t follow industry data security standards. On the other hand, maintaining PCI compliance standards can actually help your company’s image. It will help build your reputation as a business that cares about protecting customer data.

Improves Customer Relationships: Customers get a sense of which companies take data privacy seriously. When your customers feel confident that you’re doing everything you can to protect their personal information, this will strengthen their relationship with your company.

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