One of the greatest inventions in the last 20 years has been the ability to accept and send payments to anyone online or via e-Pay. This is particularly true for any business, especially those Solopreneur-driven. There are many services that have popped up to enable this ability, but none has infiltrated the market quite like PayPal and now Stripe.
While PayPal has been the standard by which others aspire, it's still a good idea to have more than one way to accept and send payments online. That's where Stripe comes in. Having a backup method can avoid issues with cash flow, as well as give you a backup in case of fraudulent activity on your account. PayPal is notorious for freezing accounts while they investigate and many times a customer can be the cause of the freeze.
This will not fair well for you as you wait for other payments or depend on PayPal to pay your vendors and employees. Anytime you use any method of payment, other than hard cold cash and in-person, there is always the potential for fraud. Let's dive into how you can protect yourself, customers, and your Brand.
Keep Electronic Copies of All Receipts
Nowadays, you can scan all of your receipts, or even have them emailed to you by the companies you do business with. The same can be done by you for your customers. In this way, you can save them during the tax year and then archive them for many years to come in case an issue arises. Copying all receipts, and looking at all receipts to establish accuracy, is imperative. Use tools like Evernote to help you keep track of your electronic receipts.
Check Your e-Pay Account Statements Regularly
Matching your receipts with your e-Pay account statement is a very important thing to do on a regular basis. Mistakes get made all the time, but if you're on top of your accounts it's less likely that mistakes or fraud can become damaging to your business. The sooner you start an investigation into any questionable activity, the better.
Never use the “I didn't know” defense and that will not help you much once other vital payments begin to bounce or overdraw your account. Some financial institutions can shut down accounts and ban users who show no regard for balancing payments to prevent too many overdrafts, so be careful and mind your money. Reputable e-Pay businesses do all they can to not only protect themselves but their millions or more users who depend on these financial channels.
Track and Keep Copies of All Communication
Regardless of how you communicate (snail mail, email, or otherwise), keep track of every communication between you and the other party (or parties) involved when dealing with financial issues. Confirmation numbers, names of persons you spoke to, date and time, and any information you can gather will come in handy should issues arise and must be addressed.
If you are communicating through chats (Skype, WhatsApp, etc.), many interfaces allow you to record the conversation, email yourself the conversation, or download the history for future references. take advantage of these options, so you are not left struggling to recall what was said. Should they share links and other vital information, these conversations are important to keep. If you are unable to record, download, or email the conversation to yourself, take screenshots of the window. Do whatever you can to keep records!
Investigate & Implement If Required: SSL Certification
All websites that accept and send payments online must have some form of SSL Certification implemented on their website. Ensure that whoever you choose to work with, is in compliance with this law. If you are selling directly from your website, you will absolutely have to purchase and install an SSL Certificate on your hosting server and attach that to your domain. Read all about configuring your website to properly use SSL Certification and display the fabulous lime green security lock in the web address: https://bklyncustomdesigns.com/installing-your-ssl-certificate
Only Use Secured Browsers
Not all browsers are secured, so don't assume so. With so many variations available, it can be tempting to do everything in the shiny new browsers. Most are set up from the factory to be secure by default, but this is not always the case. Check your browsers and make the necessary changes. Ensure that your browser and computer are secured by installing antivirus software and extensions. Pay attention to what and where you click and don't click without reading the fine print. Also, beware of spoof websites that pretend to be your financial institution. Read all about configuring your web browser to be secure using this link: http://www.us-cert.gov/publications/securing-your-web-browser
Keep Personal Information Private
Over the course of a year or two of doing business online, many people will ask for personal information from you. To protect your personal information it's important (if you live in the USA) to obtain an EIN, known as an Employer Identification Number. You do not have to plan to hire anyone to get this number; it's free, and takes only minutes. Be proactive in life and business and protect your personal information. Instead of giving out your home address and social security number to secure payments from a contractor, you can instead provide an office address (or P.O. Box) and your EIN. Click here to apply for your FREE EIN today!
Give Protected Information to Reputable Businesses Only
Furthermore, when it comes to your EIN, don't just hand that out easily. Check out any business entity to ensure that they are legit and will not act in a fraudulent manner before giving them your personal information. Just because someone presents themselves as a business owner online doesn't mean that they are. Check them out as thoroughly as possible first. See what websites they own, social media accounts they use, and how relevant they are and could be to your business and customers. Not everyone who offers help actually wants to help you and not themselves to your personal information – especially your financial information.
Set up Account Alerts
Most banks and e-pay systems like PayPal and Stripe allow you to set up account alerts that will be pushed to your smartphone and emails when your account is used or accessed. It's important to set these alerts up so that you immediately receive emails or a phone calls if certain types of transactions take place; particularly if they are suspicious. More and more companies such as Visa, JP Morgan Chase, and Discover immediately reach out to customers when they detect unusual account activities. Many also simultaneously reject such transactions or freeze the accounts until the recorded cardholder responds and verifies the transactions. These emails can really help you stop fraud dead in its tracks, thus ensuring that it doesn't financially devastate you.
Finally, it's imperative (for you, your customers, and your brand) that you thoroughly understand your financial rights for any online account that you set up. Know your responsibilities, possible risks and all rewards associated with sending or receiving payments using any e-Pay method. Knowing ahead of time what a system is reliable for is important for doing business online, whether sending or receiving a payment.