It’s a special time of year for merchants, as the holiday frenzy converts into new-year revenue. More people than ever are willing to swipe their credit cards for the annual holiday shopathon. But just like those holiday parties, the good times do have their attendant hangover.

A spike in chargebacks will inevitably follow the spike in sales. Fraud will creep in like a frost, especially friendly fraud, as those post-holiday bank statements cast their long shadow. Fraud prevention is just like getting on the “Nice” list; it’s about what you do all year long, not just in December. Our following holiday advice is more “review” and less “to-do.” But don’t worry; you last-minute types will get something to unwrap as well!

Here are six tricks to protect your business from fraud and reduce post-holiday chargebacks…

1. CHECK FOR UPDATES

Make sure all your third-party applications and plugins are running on their latest version. We all tend to roll our eyes at update notifications and make empty promises to our computers that we’ll update them later tonight or tomorrow. But you need to do it now! Most applications like your gateway, shopping cart, and CRM require updates to patch ever-evolving security vulnerabilities. And most security breaches come through out-of-date applications. So take the time for updates — click “update now”, reboot, and go have a hot cocoa by a window somewhere. You’re not slacking off, you’re “securing the network.”

2. LOCK DOWN YOUR POINTS OF SALE

It’s important to configure your website and payment gateway with the proper security protocols. Ensure your website has an SSL certificate installed. Make sure your gateway requires the Card Certification Value (CVV) for purchases. Also make sure your gateway has AVS authentication to match the credit card to its billing address. And finally, you should be verifying your transactions with 3DSecure protocols. Without SSL, AVS, CVV, and 3DS, you’re just giving away revenue when disputes arise.

3.KEEP YOUR DATA

We say this about every other article, but that’s how important it is: capture and organize your transaction data. Comprehensive transaction data is your best weapon to fight friendly fraud. If you have proof of delivery or documentation of cardholder interaction with your goods and services, you win the dispute! So make sure you’re keeping delivery confirmation, user logs, IP addresses, and device fingerprinting in an organized and accessible manner. When friendly fraud hits, you don’t want to spend your new year fumbling for compelling evidence.

4. SEND THE RIGHT MESSAGE

Come January, as consumers scan their bank statements in utter disbelief, don’t be the line item that looks like fraud. Make sure your transaction descriptors are as clear and concise as possible. We highly recommend enhancing your transaction descriptors with VMPI, Order Insight, and Eliminator — products which allow cardholders to drill down into their purchases from you. These products show exactly what was purchased, when it was delivered, and who to call with issues, all in the cardholder’s online statement. Don’t put your revenue at the mercy of the mere 22 characters or so that descriptors allow.

5. BE THERE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS

Cardholders are already accustomed to taking transaction disputes to their issuing bank, not to you. So in addition to your goods and services, you also have to sell them on your customer service. You should always inform your customers of your return policies, but it is perhaps more important that they know they can come to you with their issues, regardless. Do not hide your contact information; provide as many options as possible: email, chat, phone, snail mail. You may also consider extending your window for returns through the first quarter to ensure your disputes don’t become chargebacks.

6. CONSIDER OUTSOURCING A CALL CENTER

Ideally, you should have a way for customers to resolve disputes directly with you online. You may have enough resources in house to handle support issues that stem from your sales volume. But if you’d rather not have your people dealing with late night support issues, a call center is going to help prevent those disputes from ending up as chargebacks. Present your customers with a cascade of support options that cater to their preferences. If you offer to resolve their disputes through an interactive voice response system (IVR), always include the option to talk to a person up front.

CONCLUSION

The holidays are meant to be a time of rising spirits and conversions alike. But they also come with the unwanted side effects of fraud, chargebacks and dreadful music. There’s not much you can do to stop the music, but if you take these steps now, you can reduce much of the noise that fraud and chargebacks create.

ChargebackHelp is here for merchants all year long. We offer a free chargeback analysis to show you where your vulnerabilities are. We can also show you how to configure your sales stream to better protect your revenue and significantly reduce chargebacks. Drop us a chat down on the right, shoot us an email, or go old-school and call us 1.888.821.5302