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As identity theft continues to be a major problem, more steps are being developed to protect consumers from having their personal information hacked. One area that has proven to be most vulnerable is when paying with credit cards, so it is important for businesses to make sure they are following all rules and regulations concerning data security. To do this, merchants who perform credit card processing need to ensure they are in compliance with PCI standards.

Payment Card Industry compliance, better known as PCI compliance, is very important for those businesses with merchant accounts to understand and follow. To be in compliance with PCI standards, businesses must follow the standards established by the PCI Security Standards Council. These standards help to alleviate potential vulnerabilities and protect cardholder data by ensuring point-of-sale devices, web shopping applications, and any personal computers or servers used to transmit data meet the established guidelines.

While accepting credit card payments is a relatively easy process, there are many common sense steps that can be taken to make sure consumer data is not breached. For example, in e-commerce transactions it is always a good practice to contact the customer if the shipping address and billing address are different, since this can sometimes indicate identity theft. It’s also a good idea to contact a customer if a request for express, overnight or rush shipping is made, since these have been found to be the preferred shipping choices of identity thieves.

For businesses that use their merchant accounts for face-to-face transactions, there are steps that can be taken to also protect data in these situations. The easiest is to ask for a photo ID such as a driver’s license, and when doing so a clerk should check to see if the ID has been altered in any way. The security features of the credit card should also be checked to see if any tampering or altering has occurred. If there is any doubt, compare the card with lists of recently stolen cards to look for a match.

Businesses that depend on credit card processing for payment must be sure to comply with PCI rules and regulations for a variety of reasons. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to $500,000 as well as losing the privilege of accepting credit cards as payment. By following established guidelines, businesses can avoid problems for both themselves and their customers.