Online Retail Tips for the Holidays
Written by Greg Hammermaster, President, Sage Payment Solutions
According to a recent Forrester Research report, “U.S. Online Holiday Retail Forecast 2011,” online holiday sales will hit $59.5 billion, an increase of 15 percent year over year. Forrester estimates the growth will largely be attributed to the tight economy, as consumers look to the Web for the best bargains.
And, according to Forrester, the surge will be furthered by the growing popularity and proliferation of Web-enabled smart phones. While this spending increase may portend an economic recovery – a good thing, indeed – the bad news is credit card fraud is especially rampant during times when the overall number of credit card transactions increases exponentially.
Credit card safety is always important, but is particularly top-of-mind during the holiday shopping season.
While the traditional holiday shopping images are of beleaguered consumers running around town, hoping to procure that season’s coveted item, the season is increasingly about the click of the mouse. According to Shop.org's eHoliday survey, consumers are planning to do 36 percent of their 2011 holiday shopping online, compared with 32.7 percent in 2010.
What this eSales Surge Means
Unfortunately, online shoppers have become the target of choice for fraudsters, who send emails advertising the harder-to-get products. I suggest that consumers treat an unsolicited online offer much in the same way they advise their kids not to talk to strangers.
There will be an uptick in the number of scam email offers during the holiday season. One recent scam, according to Mashable, involved emails appearing to be from UPS, “telling the recipient that a package they sent has not been delivered and inviting them to click a ‘track package’ link,” which directed to infected sites, not the UPS site.
If you have not already done so, now is the time to sit down with your teenagers and older parents and discuss taking precautions in the online world, as well as on the street, due to the ease in which virtually anyone can open an account to accept credit cards on their mobile phone.
This year’s holiday shoppers will likely encounter more outlets with mobile phones and tablet devices processing credit cards. While a large number of legitimate businesses and charities are using mobile devices for accepting credit card payments, the fraudsters have had some time to study the broadly distributed mobile payment providers, so consumers should be cautious about giving their credit cards to quasi-looking businesses or organizations exclusively using mobile phones and tablets.
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What the Industry Should Do to Protect Consumers
Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is a requirement of all businesses interacting with credit or debit cards. Now is a good time for businesses who are not PCI compliant to get on board. For merchants, being PCI compliant is both an offensive and defensive strategy. A good offense is to shore up all security holes while a good defense is to have that PCI badge to mitigate the consequences of a breach. However, the real exposure is the merchant’s brand.
Consumers won’t be repeat customers if their credit card is compromised at a merchant’s store, especially if it is revealed the merchant is not PCI compliant. Now is a good time for merchants to work closely with their payment providers to work through the PCI questionnaire and use payment security software to scan their connected environment.
Whether merchants are PCI compliant or not, they can ensure all their points of payments are fully encrypted. End-to-end encryption is a technical term, which simply means the information being transmitted from one device to another is garbled bits of data that is extremely difficult to un-garble.
Merchants should check with their service providers to make sure any credit card terminals, e-commerce web sites, software applications and, yes, any mobile phones and tablets accepting credit cards are encrypted. Some mobile payment providers have mass-distributed, unencrypted solutions, so not all providers are equal.
With a bit of caution on the part of consumers, and protective measures on the part of merchants, credit card fraud should not keep any of us from having happy holidays.
About the Author: Greg Hammermaster has more than 23 years of experience in banking, payment solutions, and business software applications. As president of Sage Payment Solutions, the payments division for Sage North America, he is responsible for executive management for the company’s credit card processing operations in Virginia and check and ACH processing operations in Florida. His responsibilities also include payments process and data integration with Sage’s business software solutions. He speaks at payments industry conferences, and is currently on the board of Commercial Payments International.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.