Are Online Payments Safe? Q/A on Digital Payments Security With Helcim

Roberto Popolizio Roberto Popolizio

eCommerce is growing by the day and so are the investments in cybersecurity for online payments, so can we safely assume that digital payments are safe nowadays?

After all, hacked accounts, data breaches, and card fraud, are still filling up the news, regardless of the number of tools that help online retailers with the data flowing on their servers and guarantee compliance.

So what’s the truth about the current state of online payments security? Are digital payments really safe now that we have antiviruses, password managers, and a plethora of safe browsing features at hand? Are they maybe even safer than offline payments?

Our guest today is Brett Popkey, CTO at Helcim, a firm processing billions in transactions for thousands of merchants every year, who will give us his expert insights on the recent cybersecurity trends for online payments, plus some practical tips on what online merchants can do to protect their customers’ sensitive information.

Can You Tell Us A Little Bit About Helcim? What’s Your Story and what do you offer?

Helcim makes accepting payments for your business feel good – by striving to be the world’s most loved payments company. That means giving small businesses every possible edge, from more affordable rates, easy to use tools and putting a human touch to our service. For us this means we focus on providing a payment service that aligns with our values and that we can be proud of.

Helcim has a unique payments offering, combining the best of easy sign up and integrated software and business tools alongside a solid in-person payments experience. Our core payments solution gives businesses across a wide variety of industries the ability to quickly sign up and offer a range of online payment tools that can be customized to match their needs.

I originally joined Helcim as a member of the Development team and was responsible for building out the foundation of the service that merchants still use today. I now lead the software development, IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data analytics functions. A large part of this responsibility is ensuring our roadmap continues to be forward-looking in keeping our customers’ data safe and pushing forward more protections for both sellers and shoppers.

What Distinguishes You From Other Online Payment Solutions Providers?

The payments industry has a long-standing reputation among small to medium sized businesses of hidden fees, poor merchant service and little to no tools that help run a business. A few Silicon Valley disrupters have gained market share in the last decade by offering a more instant experience with better tools; however, they typically charge higher fees. Many of these providers offer flat rate pricing to their merchants where Helcim opts for the transparent, and often more affordable, interchange plus pricing which passes the interchange fee directly on to the business so when customers pay with a credit card that has a lower interchange fee associated with it the merchant can benefit from the savings.

Getting started with payments and learning the ins and outs of the industry can be daunting, there’s a lot to learn and it’s easy to get tripped up if you don’t know what to ask or what to watch out for. At Helcim we’ve always prioritized merchant education and making it easy to find information about the industry, what to watch out for, and how to protect their businesses.

It’s this focus on really caring for our merchants and looking out for their best interests combined with our affordable rates and comprehensive online tools that really helps differentiate us from other online payment providers.

Would You Say That Online Payments Are Safe Nowadays? If Not, What Risks Are Still Predominant?

There is always going to be some risk associated with accepting payments online but as long as you understand the risk, know what to look for and partner with a payment provider you trust then you can effectively manage that risk. There will always be some trade off between making it easy for customers to pay for purchases online and deterring legitimate transactions if precautions are too stringent.

One of the first things you should check is what security settings and controls are offered by your payment provider. For example, Helcim allows merchants to configure certain settings in their account such as AVS Auto-Void which will automatically decline transactions if the AVS comes back without a match. Regularly reviewing transactions and looking for abnormal behavior is also a good practice to get into if you’re accepting online transactions.

A risk that online merchants should be aware of is the possibility of card testing where someone obtains credit card information illegitimately and performs card testing to determine the validity of the card information. Card testing can be performed in a few different ways but usually shows up as a sudden increase in new customers being added to an account or a noticeable increase in transaction activity along with declined transactions and small purchase amounts. If you notice activity that follows these patterns it’s best to contact your payments provider to see about voiding the transactions if you can’t do so yourself or temporarily disabling the ability to accept payments.

While not unique to online payments, any business accepting credit cards has a risk of chargebacks if customers are unhappy with a product, don’t receive a shipment, or have their cards stolen amongst other reasons.

What Do You Actively Do To Protect Your Customers’ Data And Ensure Compliance?

Protecting customer data and ensuring compliance is extremely important to us at Helcim, we prioritize keeping sensitive information secure and protected through all aspects of our business. We undergo rigorous audits, testing, and inspections to maintain the highest level of compliance in the industry. Our talented team of in-house developers, systems engineers, and security administrators work to maintain strict security standards at all times.

Thousands of merchants trust Helcim to secure the payment and personal information of their customers, removing their own systems from scope. Helcim protects this data by keeping it separate from web servers and making it easier for the businesses who entrust Helcim with their payments to keep their own businesses compliant.

Are There Any Best Practices Shoppers And Sellers Should Use To Secure Online Payment?

Similar to what I mentioned above, it’s important to keep information of the potential risk and to review transaction activity regularly. Additional steps that can help secure online payments are using tools like AVS (Address Verification System) and requesting the CVV on the card will help confirm the proper cardholder is using the card at the time of purchase.

Additional steps that sellers can take are looking out for odd purchase patterns like multiple orders with the same shipping address but different credit card numbers, odd purchase habits, or shipping addresses that don’t match billing addresses. If you request customers to enter their phone numbers you can use this to call and verify orders that seem abnormal before shipping them.

For shoppers it’s really about validating they are shopping through a legitimate website, that the checkout is secure, and avoiding unknown or unreputable sites. When in doubt, look for merchant policies, return policies, contact information, and online reviews. All of these items can help validate a site before they provide sensitive information.

For both shoppers and sellers, it is also important to practice good account hygiene by using very strong passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication anywhere it is available to prevent the misuse of cards and loss of sensitive data.

How Do You Envision The Future Of Your Industry?

I believe that online shopping and online transactions will continue to increase in popularity. Consumers are not going to want to move away from how convenient it is to shop online for items they need and businesses will need to continue to find new ways to offer online payments to customers.

As the industry continues to advance and adds new functionality through open banking and real time rails there will be new options for consumers and businesses need to be prepared to adapt the tools and technology they are leveraging to deliver online payments.

And How About Your Future? What’s In Helcim’s Roadmap?

I am excited for Helcim’s future, we’ve had a lot of growth this year and have some really great new products on our roadmap. We’ll be rolling out new features and functionality we know businesses are looking for along with new products, many of which will enhance online payment options for businesses. I can’t give away too much right now but connect with us online to keep up to date on our latest advancements, or if you’re looking for really great online payment solutions sign up for an account and check it out for yourself.

About the Author

About the Author

Over a decade spent helping affiliate blogs and cybersecurity companies increase revenue through conversion-focused content marketing and Digital PR linkbuilding.