Call centers are putting customer financial data at risk – here’s how to stop it


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Everyone knows about the risk of credit card skimmers at gas stations and ATMs, particularly those located away from official bank branches. The convenience factor is difficult to resist, however, so many of us still pay at the pump and still use ATMs anywhere we can find them.

Banks are working hard to fight these and other schemes at the card level, adding chips and contactless payment options in an effort to reduce fraud. But one area that remains vulnerable, no matter how safe credit and debit cards become, is the call center. Even the most skeptical consumers assume – or at least want to believe – that they are safe if they dial the number on the back of the card.

That is not always the case, however. There have been numerous reports of fraud both at branches and call centers. In one situation, a Wells Fargo call center employee pretended to be a financial adviser and stole $800,000 from an elderly customer. The customer had no idea he was being scammed by someone who worked for the bank he personally called.

While it must be said that most call center employees are professionals who take their job seriously and would not even consider stealing customer information, the potential for fraud cannot be ignored. There are, unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of a situation, and call centers happen to be one of the easiest ways for malicious actors to exploit consumers. When consumers call, they are putting their trust in the hands of the business. And that is why it is imperative that, in addition to providing a seamless and hassle-free experience, banks and other organizations must ensure that their call centers are secure.

The threat cannot be overstated

Web and phone apps dominate many areas, but traditional phone calls remain a key element for retail. If, for example, customers of a particular retailer can’t order online (when the site is down or glitching), or if they simply prefer phone orders, they are likely to call. In doing so, they should be rewarded not only with outstanding service but with a call experience that maintains trust in the company.

It would be impossible for an organization to screen every single employee for fraud. Even then, someone is bound to slip through the cracks. This could also potentially alienate employees who are trustworthy but feel as though their employer does not trust them.

A far better solution is to rely on a robust payment security strategy that will implement the necessary measures to safeguard customers’ financial data. The first step involves the removal of agent access to payment information. How is this possible when customers are required to share their personal details, including credit or debit card numbers? Technology makes this quite simple, actually. Instead of verbally sharing payment details (which could be written down by anyone on the line) or agents having to pause the recording, organizations can ask customers to enter card details using the phone keypad and all the agent will see are asterisks (*) instead of the details. No DTMF signals or card details are captured. Many of these technologies are PCI DSS compliant to insure the security of the customer’s financial information.

The benefits are twofold. First, consumers can connect directly with the payment network to complete a secure transaction. At no point would the customer service agent be in possession of the customer’s card number. Second, the agent would still be available to assist with other, less sensitive matters, which is exactly what consumers want when they place the call. They want service that meets their needs without invading their privacy, risking their identity or opening the door to fraud.

CCPA and other privacy legislations now require businesses to be more proactive in protecting consumer data, so the importance here cannot be understated. Consumers want to know they’re safe, and technology makes it possible to help them achieve the safety and security they crave.

Safe consumers are happy consumers

Nothing means more to customers than the experience they have when they interact with a brand. Though it’s easy to overlook, a big part of that experience involves trust. Trust is especially important for banks, which spend billions promoting their brands to attract new consumers every year. If at any time that trust is broken – through fraud, a cybersecurity breach or any other hiccup – it can be very difficult to regain. That’s why it is so important for brands to build and maintain the trust of every customer. In doing so, they can also win over skeptics who might be jaded by past experiences.

When consumers feel safe and secure, the rest of the customer experience is much easier to elevate and refine. Instead of trying to convey that your brand is not vulnerable, consumers will already know it by the results, the social media chatter and general all-around praise. They’ll be comfortable by default, allowing everything else to fall into place.

Tim Beeson
Tim Beeson is the Global Alliances Director of Natterbox, based in Chicago. He joined Natterbox in 2010 and has played an instrumental role in forging alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce. Previously, Beeson led the Natterbox UK sales division and global alliances segment, securing large accounts like Groupon.


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