Well, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of us have purchased goods or services online. For most, it has become a regular occurrence, so much so that we take it for granted. As consumers, we tend to trust the online retailers we buy from, recognising that payment security has evolved to make transactions a lot safer today. Regulations and mechanisms like PCI-DSS have gone a long way to mitigate the risks of online trading. Everyone takes it seriously, from your local independent shop to super-brands like Amazon who invest millions to simplify, secure and speed up our ability to spend money. By and large it works well, with very little risk to Joe Public. However, with another recent news story that hackers have obtained the bank card details of 380,000 British Airways customers, it makes us all question whether it really is safe to trade online.

Past, Present, Future

Last year, an estimated 1.66 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. By 2021, it is believed that within the ‘B2C’ (business to consumer) sector, online global retail sales will hit a staggering £3.4 trillion! That’s more than our entire country generates in a year, and it’s only going to increase. It’s good for us as consumers, and good for you as driving instructors. Our industry has to engage, adapt and keep up with the pace of change, embracing the technology to improve our efficiency and business effectiveness. Opposites attract. With the good, there is always some bad too, but with the likes of the recent British Airways hacking, we must keep it all in perspective and not allow it knock us off course. After all, criminals used to hold up trains, rob banks for cash and forge cheques. With electronic transactions, those risks disappear, but unfortunately others emerge just as they have always done, so don’t overreact.

Nothing’s Perfect

Always be mindful of security online just as you are with your purse or wallet, but none and nothing is infallible. All you can do is take measured, reasonable precautions to protect yourself, but that doesn’t mean locking yourself away in a dark room.
Off the back of the BA hack, a customer asked me if we kept his card details safe. We collect payments from customers via Direct Debit, requiring only a sort-code and account number which, in isolation, are pretty useless to web crooks. They need the long number on your card, the expiry date and, most importantly, the CVV code on the back. The CVV code isn’t typically stored in any system other than the card issuer, which is why you’re always asked to enter it when you buy something online. The British Airways problem was caused by a seemingly innocuous piece of code that was provided by a third-party for use on their website. Hackers were able to manipulate it to capture card details as customers entered it, including the CVV code. It was subtle but sophisticated, and their IT team simply didn’t recognise the issue. Ultimately, they’re a big name and a great target for hackers, but it’s worth remembering that many millions of transactions occur each day without any issue.

Future Proofing

As a driving instructor, there are ways you can benefit from providing electronic payments to help both yourself and your customer in the following ways:

1 Accessible & Efficient
It’s often easier for pupils to whip out a card than remember to bring enough cash. It also allows for advance payments for lessons to be taken more easily in person, online or over the phone.

2 Traceable
Receiving payments directly into your bank account or via a third-party credit card processor. It provides an auditable trace, especially in disputes, or when it comes to completing your tax return.

3 Safe
Not carrying cash in the car means it’s safe from theft or loss.

There are a range of ways you can receive payments these days. Perhaps the three most obvious ways are:

1 Bank transfer
Providing your students with your name, sort-code and account number is not a risk. Include them in your Terms & Conditions as your preferred method of payment, so that you can encourage pre-payment and track payments via your online banking, or mobile app, before you commit to delivering a lesson.

2 Online payments
PayPal provide options for incorporating payments within your website, along with an emerging market of other payment processors. Just search for “accepting online payments”, and check out what’s best for you.

3 In-car card reader
Providers such as iZettle make it simple to take payments from customers on the move. A card reader links to an app on your phone, allowing you to process a debit or credit card payment while in the car. It couldn’t be simpler.

Don’t look back

It’s easy to buy into the sensationalist news headlines, but don’t dismiss new technology as risky and resort back to the comfort of ‘tried and tested’ older methods. They are often riskier, less efficient and you’ll undoubtledy lose out to the competition. So, don’t let the odd bump in the road put you off your necessary journey.