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3 common PCI compliance myths merchants should know

There are many myths surrounding PCI compliance that can confuse merchants.

Adhering to pre-determined regulations can be a daunting process for merchants of all sizes. Companies processing, storing and transmitting customers' sensitive data on a regular basis have certain obligations they must complete to keep this information safe from potential threats. Although many business owners may be familiar with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, the number and intricacies of the rules could leave them confused. This can be detrimental to their consumer relationships, as clients want to know their transactions are as protected as possible.

In fact, 45 percent of online households cited privacy and security concerns as their reasons for not making ecommerce purchases, completing financial transactions or posting opinions to social media networks, according to a study from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration. It's crucial for organizations to not only understand PCI DSS, but to follow the guidelines down to the smallest detail. Yet, with every body of rules like these, there are common misconceptions. Let's take a look at some of the myths companies must be aware of to maintain compliance:

Online consumers worry about privacy and security during ecommerce purchases.Online consumers worry about privacy and security during ecommerce purchases.

Myth No.1: Small organizations don't need to be compliant
This couldn't be further from the truth. Regardless of the business' size, it needs to follow PCI regulations if it accepts payment cards – credit, debit or prepaid versions – for transactions. It's important to note, however, that the number of sales processed using this method of payment will determine the specifics of the company's adherence, also known as its merchant level. The PCI Security Standards Council breaks down those categories as follows:

  • Level 1: Processes over six million Visa transactions every year.
  • Level 2: Processes one to six million Visa transactions per year.
  • Level 3: Processes 20,000 to one million Visa transactions annually.
  • Level 4: Processes fewer than 20,000 Visa transactions on a yearly basis.

Furthermore, a company's merchant level is subject to change should a data breach occur.

Myth No. 2: Company leadership should stay out of the compliance process
Adhering to regulations as important as the PCI DSS is a large obligation for businesses, no matter what their size. It requires all hands on deck to be implemented as smoothly and successfully as possible. Organization leaders, including executives, should make sure they're part of the procedure, according to Forbes. The requirements that come with the guidelines will necessitate a change in company culture, which could frighten some employees. CEOs and other leaders should be ready and willing to champion the effort, explaining to their employees the benefits of introducing the measures.

"Ultimately, compliance is the responsibility of the merchant."

Myth No. 3: Businesses can become compliant on their own
This misconception is a bit of a toss-up. While it is possible for companies to adhere to PCI DSS without assistance, it will be a difficult process. With so many details included in the requirements, organizations may believe they're compliant only to realize they've missed something if a data threat occurs.

To simplify the process of adhering to PCI standards, organizations can outsource card processing and compliance as a whole, the PCI SSC suggested. It's important to remember, however, that at the end of the day, the latter task is the responsibility of the merchant. This means that simply outsourcing PCI adherence won't save businesses from the penalties – both monetary and to their reputation – incurred if a data hack is found in the future. The obligation to be PCI adherent will always stay with the merchant itself, so companies can't outsource compliance steps completely.

Completing PCI standards can be overwhelming for companies. These organizations already have many responsibilities on their plate to follow on a regular basis. To help with this task, businesses can work with a third-party partner, like SFG. SFG offers merchants the highest level of PCI certification and will ensure their clients maintain adherence as guidelines continue to change over time. Furthermore, SFG will give organizations the information they need to understand common PCI misconceptions and provide a safe and secure buying experience for consumers.

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