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Go Phish… A Merchant Account Nightmare?

It used to be, you put a worm on a hook at the end of your pole, stuck it in the water and if all went well, you caught yourself some dinner. Fishing was just plain carefree and easy fun. Unfortunately, life isn’t that simple anymore.

These days, we live in a world of technology which turns out to be a double-edged sword. Yes, we can pick up our phones or open our tablets and computers and get the answer to any question or find out how to do just about anything, in literally a matter of seconds. There’s no denying how incredibly convenient and easy life can be, due to the advances of technology. But the amazing benefits of our technical world are not without difficulties and dangers.

Enter…  Phishing

In the technical world, we live in today, it’s become extremely important to watch out for all sorts of threats and scams, not the least of which is a very diabolical one known as “phishing.” It’s pronounced just like “fishing,” however that’s where the similarity ends.

Phishing is basically a nefarious attempt by an unlawful email and/or website, whose goal is to steal personal information, such as passwords, usernames, social security #s, credit card details and banking data, etc. By convincingly disguising themselves as credible and authentic individuals and institutions, they’re often successful in achieving their objective. Phishing entities target individuals and companies alike and the results can be devastating for both.

Businesses Beware!

Nowadays, everybody is aware of and on the lookout for identity theft scams perpetrated on individuals. That’s pretty much a fact of life. But when it comes to major industries like Credit and Collections, Debt Relief, Nutraceuticals, Bail Bonds, Credit Repair, Moving Brokers,

Adult Entertainment and Document Preparation, just to name a few, there just isn’t as much awareness as to the harm and destruction phishing can actually cause. In fact, phishing schemes are often responsible for companies losing huge sums of money, customers and clients, and the good reputations they’ve worked so hard to establish over their years in business.

How Bad Is It?

The fact is, last year, approximately 76% of businesses reported having been victimized by a phishing attack and that number continues to grow. Additionally, 90% of all data breaches originally stem from some sort of phishing effort and the average cost of a successful phishing attack, on a medium-size firm, is approximately $1.6 million. Furthermore, due to phishing schemes, these companies are put in the alarming position of very possibly losing their ability to obtain and hold onto their much-needed merchant accounts.

Merchant accounts make it possible for all companies to take credit and debit card payments, which is an absolute necessity in our current plastic era. Without a merchant account, many companies are just not able to survive. Moreover, given the nature of their business, most companies operating within industries such as Credit and Collection, Debt Relief, Nutraceuticals, Bail Bonds, Credit Repair, Moving Brokers, Adult Entertainment, Document Preparation and others, are already considered to be “high risk” for merchant accounts. Banks and credit card processors are not readily motivated to provide them with the merchant accounts needed to keep their companies financially healthy and afloat.

Factor in the phishing threat and you can rest assured that financial institutions will almost certainly not approve their “high risk” merchant accounts and may actually pull back their already granted “high risk” merchant accounts. This can, of course, result in a devastating situation for every type of “high risk” merchant account industry.

Businesses, Protect Yourselves!

Although phishing poses a major threat to most businesses, in particular those at high risk for merchant accounts, there are certainly successful methods of protection that can be employed. For instance, choose an email provider that employs strong email filters.

Even with strong filters in place, it’s extremely important to train your employees to absolutely not open emails that look odd in any way, have spelling and grammar errors in the subject line or are from unknown sources. With any of these factors present, it’s particularly important that attachments not be opened, as most ransomware can be found within attachments. Ransomware basically kidnaps your files and will only return them to you for a fee. For Collections and Debt Relief companies, for example this can be devastating, as their files generally contain their clients’ very sensitive and personal financial information and much more.

Make it a rule to avoid opening attachments whenever possible. Of course, it pretty much goes without saying, that you need to have the very best anti-virus software in place and make sure to keep it up to date no matter how often updating needs to take place. Although phishing is a very real threat, it doesn’t have to succeed in harming your business, “high risk” or otherwise, if you take all the available and necessary precautions.

( Merchant Account Specialist )

Joyce Hope is a writer who specializes in merchant accounts. She has worked for First Card Payments since 2017.

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