10 Ways to Reduce Chargebacks and Fraud

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by: Jim Conley II, MerchantSeek

Merchant concern about online credit card fraud and chargebacks is rising at a significant rate. According to the 2001 Online Fraud Report, conducted by Mindwave Research, it revealed that, “41% of merchants say the issue of online credit card fraud is ‘very serious’ to their business.” As e-commerce continues to flourish the number of instances of credit card fraud and chargebacks will continue to mount higher. It should go without saying that the need to take certain measures to reduce and virtually eliminate chargebacks and fraud is certainly paramount.

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Chargeback, the word that Internet merchants fear. A chargeback is what it’s called when a transaction is reversed. In other words, rather than adding money to your account it is deducted. Chargebacks can occur for a wide variety of reasons, such as double-charging, credit card expiration, bank error and customer disputes. If you get too many chargebacks against you, there is a possibility that you will lose your merchant account. Once you’ve lost your merchant account you are placed on the Visa/MasterCard Terminated Merchant File (TMF/MATCH list) for several years which all Merchant Account Providers have access to, and if they find you on the list they won’t reissue a merchant account to you. If you are one of those merchants who have lost their merchant account, there is still hope. Bank Card Law specializes in helping companies who’ve lost their merchant account because of excessive chargebacks.

Here are some ways you can greatly reduce the instances of chargebacks and fraud, even potentially eliminate the risk altogether:

#10 If the customer is present examine the card carefully

One common sense method to fight chargebacks is to examine the customer’s card. Look at the expiration date and the signature panel for good measure. If the card does not have a signature you are free to check the customer’s ID. You may also request that the customer signs the card and if the customer refuses, you may decline to accept the customer’s credit card.

#9 Verify CVC2 and CVV2 Verification Numbers

This tactic alone can not only reduce instances of chargebacks by 26%, according to Visa, but also reduce any pass-through fees that may be charged when a credit card order is conducted. On the back of MasterCard, most Visa and Discover credit cards is a 3-digit security code located right after your credit card number. Requiring customers to give the 3-digit code acts as an additional verification measure. American Express cards also have a similar security code that is located on the front of the card right above the cardholder’s account number and is usually 4-digits long. Most online payment processors support entering the security codes when processing credit card orders. Check with your payment gateway provider (i.e. Verisign, Authorize.Net, ECHO Inc., etc) for details.

#8 Use Address Verification System (AVS)

AVS checks to ensure the address entered on the order form matches the address to where the cardholder’s billing statements are mailed to. People ordering products and/or services using a stolen card number will never use the real cardholder’s billing address, so this is your chance to stop the order before it’s too late. AVS only works with orders conducted in the US. Failure to use AVS when processing credit card transactions will always result in paying higher credit card processing fees.

#7 Scrutinize orders from developing foreign countries

A large percentage of fraudulent Internet purchases are made from Indonesia, Russia, and other eastern block or developing countries. Accept orders from such countries at your own risk until a worldwide AVS system is developed.

#6 Let customers know what name will appear on statements

Many merchants who use 3rd Party Processing companies have run into problems because the company name that appears on cardholder’s monthly statements is usually the name of the 3rd party processing company and not the company name of the site the cardholder made their purchase from. This isn’t always the case, but in many cases it is. If you use a 3rd party processor, and even if you don’t, make sure the customer knows what name will appear on their credit card statement at the end of the month. This will help to reduce any confusion that might would otherwise occur.

#5 Handle suspicious orders accordingly

If an order seems suspicious the best way to handle the situation is to either call or e-mail the customer and attempt to verify that they placed the order. As a rule of thumb, if in doubt, check things out. It may be a good idea that if a customer makes an unusually large volume purchase from your site to follow-up with a verification call. This is where a system like VoiceStamps, featured here, can come in very handy.

#4 Watch out for orders using free e-mail addresses

Be wary of accepting orders from people who used a free e-mail address when ordering (i.e. Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.). Tracking people who used a free e-mail address is almost impossible, it’s much easier for them to get away then if they used their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or their own company web site e-mail address. To check whether an e-mail address is a freebie or not just take the part of the address after the “@” symbol, add “www” to the front of it and see what website it brings up (i.e. joe@yahoo.com = www.yahoo.com).

#3 Signatures on delivery

If your business delivers products use a carrier that requires a signature on delivery, and allows you to have a copy of the signature. Retain these for your records.

#2 Request fax copies of ID and credit card

You may want to request your customer to fax a copy of both sides of their credit card and driver’s license. This tactic usually works best in a B-to-B (business to business) sales environment. While this is not a defense under Visa or MasterCard rules, it is yet another way to deter fraud.

#1 Posting a warning message

Taking the time to post a warning message on your order page to those who may attempt to make a fraudulent order will greatly deter the number of instances of fraud. Be sure to mention that IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are being logged. IP addresses can come in handy when locating people about fraudulent orders.

Taking measures to deter and eliminate fraud and chargebacks from occurring are a necessity in order to operate a successful online business. Each day companies dedicated to risk management are developing solutions to provide merchants, like yourself, with extra protection because of the financial burdens chargebacks and fraud can bestow if ignored.

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Jim Conley II is the CEO/Founder of MerchantSeek. MerchantSeek allows merchants from around the world to search FREE for a Merchant Account Provider that best fits their businesses needs and budget. Visit us at http://www.merchantseek.com/