By SBOA Merchant Services
During the 2013 holiday season, 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from retail giant Target. From April through September 2014, 56 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from servers at The Home Depot. Perhaps the largest breach was in 2003, when an estimated 94 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from TJ Maxx.
The security of payment processing is of utmost importance to self-storage operators and their tenants. A credit card breach can be devastating to cardholders and the business responsible. How can you protect your operation? The credit card industry is rolling out new technology this year. Called EMV, which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, it’s already a popular processing feature in Canada but relatively new to U.S. consumers and businesses.
EMV involves the use of integrated circuit cards, known as IC cards or "chip cards," which digitally sign each transaction with a unique stamp. This digital “signature” can’t be replicated. Unlike the magnetic-strip cards that are widely used today, chip cards ensure each transaction is dynamic and distinctive; no two will ever be the same. With traditional magnetic cards, data can be easily copied using a card-reading device, allowing thieves to create counterfeit cards. By contrast, cards featuring EMV technology prevent data from being reused if stolen.
The process of migrating all businesses that accept credit cards to the new technology will take months, possibly years, and will affect every party involved in a credit card transaction, from the consumer to the credit card processor. All point-of-sale devices need to be upgraded and prepared for this technology by October 2015, including those used by self-storage operators. By upgrading your in-office processing equipment, you take a proactive approach to protecting customer data. You also protect yourself against possible legal action should a breach occur.
What can you do to safeguard tenant data as you await this new technology? Here are some simple guidelines:
- Never write down or store credit card numbers! If a tenant wants to make a payment over the phone, encourage him to do it online. If necessary, key in the card as it is given to you over the phone rather than writing it on a piece of paper or storing it on your computer.
- Always swipe when the card is present.
- Always encourage tenants to pay with auto-pay. The credit card info in your software is masked (encrypted) so the data is secure. Having customers on auto-pay removes the need to swipe or take payments over the phone each month.
- It’s important that you use a payment processor who provides comprehensive breach coverage. Hopefully, you’ll never have to file this type of claim, but it offers the comfort of knowing you have protection in the event of a breach.
If you’re looking for more ways to protect your tenants, check with your payment-processing partner or software vendor. They’ll likely have some tips on how you can keep credit transactions safe as well as advice on getting ready for EMV technology.
SBOA Merchant Services provides debit and credit card as well as check and ACH processing services to the self-storage industry. The company has partnered with Sage Payment Solutions, a firm that tailors payment solutions around individual businesses. Sage’s products and services include credit/debit card processing, check processing, ACH processing, mobile payments, gift card and loyalty programs, and accounting software. For more information, visit www.sboams.com.