Protecting Customer Data from Fraud

“Having a plan in place for the assessment, protection, and disposal of customer data can bolster your organization again potential cyber threats.” –

Customers trust a business with their personal information and even financial data. Their trust is the basis of a company’s success and hence it is the duty of a business to protect customer data from fraud. No company is safe or immune to the very real threat of data fraud in any form. It could be theft, misuse, and abuse of the information for selfish gains and several other risks that could potentially ruin your business and the customers. It would be very costly and hugely disadvantageous for a business to fail at protecting customer data from fraud. This has in fact, been a major concern for businesses and there are innumerable instances of the loss or misuse of highly sensitive customer data. The scary part is that these instances seem to be on the rise and the situation is becoming more serious with businesses struggling to keep their customer data safe, and themselves stay free of litigious situations and a damaged reputation.

It is extremely vital that companies, which run call centres to support their customers, have strict procedures and policies in place to protect customer data from fraud. Any support centre does usually collect customer, personal and payment related details, which means that the employees have access to the information and without stringent policies; there could be many potential violations. One glaring violation is allowing the use of smartphones in these centres, on which data can be stored and retrieved later, long after the employee, leaves the office. This is a very real danger, which is heightened when companies outsource their call centre operations to a third party. This outsourced agency may not practice top security standards or have strict punitive action policies in place to deter the malefactors. Even if the company may have outsourced their customer support, the ultimately responsibility of protecting customer data from fraud, lies with the company and any breach could lead to serious problems for it. It would be wise on the part of and a duty of any company to ensure that they consistently review their processes to ensure that it has the measures in place to keep customer data and trust intact.

It is a known fact that remaining aware and in ‘defence’ mode is the best method to protect your company and its customers from data theft and misuse. It is also the best way to demonstrate your company’s commitment and relentless dedication to protecting its customer’s personal information, privacy, and ensuring the security of their finances. Protecting customer data from fraud must be the responsibility of each person in the organization and everyone must understand the severe consequences of creating blunders in this regard. Data fraud must be in the zero tolerance zones, for any company.

There are many companies, which have put in place clear and written guidelines, with regard to the handling of current information of customers and the destruction of information that may longer be required. ‘Paper’ information of any kind related to the customer, must never be thrown away without properly destroying the pieces of paper. Shredding them is the best way to dispose of crucial information, which could be used by miscreants for personal gain. The ‘hard copies’ of customer information, especially via the mail, must be kept secured under lock and key, with access limited to a few people only.

Companies must also constantly remind their customers to keep their financial documents and information carefully, and report any discrepancies immediately. Customers must be informed of any policy modifications or any other organizational changes that could affect them, such that they have the most updated information at all times. While it is the duty of the company to have the latest software and technology to ensure that they are protecting customer data from fraud, it is also the responsibility of individual customers to keep their data safe through proper anti-virus and anti-hacking software, both on their smart devices and computers.

Protecting customer data from fraud is not something that should only happen within the company’s premises. Customers must be advised never to use internet cafes or public computers to manage their financial data and transactions – it is the duty of customers to comply for their own safety. Employees, who deal directly with sensitive information of customers, must remember never to open emails, pop-ups, or download any files unless they are certain of the source. The work systems of these employees are most vulnerable to attacks and hence must be upgraded constantly with the latest ‘protection software’. The employees must be required to attend mandatorily, training programs to understand the risks and mitigation procedures, and processes involved in protecting customer data from fraud. This should be part of the key performance indicators for every employee.

Customer data fraud can happen through any channel and any means such as phone or emails or both. “Phishing’, as it called in the world of data fraud, is on the rise and the malefactors seem to be upgrading their ‘skills’, becoming smarter with time. In order to combat them, it is vital that both the company and the customers protect the data on their computer by using the latest ‘spyware’ and anti-virus software. They must never respond to emails that promise rewards and ask for personal information and bank account details. Companies and banks never request customers for such information via emails and they must consistently reiterate this to their customers. Customers must remember never to provide information to callers claiming to be from a companies or banks they do business with.

Data fraud has been and continues to be a major problem, which everyone involved must be extremely cautious about. The number of incidents has increased significantly and only awareness and knowledge can help your company in protecting customer data from fraud. It is imperative that both the company and the customers strengthen their system defences against such perpetrators and fight back forcefully. Understanding the threats and remaining aware of the protective methods would help to protect the sensitive information and safeguard all from the ill effects of data fraud.

The good news is that there are several anti-virus and firewall software available in the market and a number of top professionals that deal with this problem. It would be sensible to enlist the help of these ‘safeguards’ and protectors, such that you gain peace of mind and keep yourself safe from malicious intent. By regular maintenance and software upgrades, the risk of attacks on company systems would be significantly lower. The fact is that customers share their information with companies in order to do business and receive service. One of the most important service, a company can give to its customer is by respecting and protecting their information.

Data fraud is not a problem that would go away by ignoring it. As mentioned, it is a very real threat and many companies have landed in serious problems and have had to pay heavily in litigation costs. Too many such instances would lead to an erosion of trust on widespread scale and could damage the company’s reputation, irreparably. It may cost a company some amount of money to buy the appropriate system software and provide adequate training to its employees, but the payoffs of doing so are immense. On the contrary, skimping on ‘protective methods’ could cost a company dearly – even a shutdown. Are you up for investing in resources that would help in protecting customer data from fraud?

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