Practical Tips for Avoiding Fraud When Accepting Clients’ Payments

As a travel professional and seller of travel, one of your duties and responsibilities is to accept and process payments toward your clients’ desired vacations. When you do that, you are obligated to guard against fraud and to protect your clients’ payment information while within your possession.

With the rapid growth in technology, taking a client’s payment has never been easier…or has it? Understanding the payment processing universe is a complex and very important topic for all travel advisors to truly understand. To continue bringing you the most current, in-depth information, our Certified Travel Associate (CTA®), 10th edition dedicates one of its 15 modules to Accepting and Processing Payments.

Today, we are giving you a quick peek into this module:

As a travel advisor, you must be familiar with the various forms of payment and be ready to take steps to help process the payments more effectively and safely. Equally important is understanding the policies and processes you must follow according to your agency, whether it be a host agency, a brick and mortar, or your own business. 

Payments Accepted Via an Electronic Fund-Transfer Mechanism: 

When accepting payment from clients via electronic funds, it’s important to take precautions in verifying that an electronic funds transfer is legitimate. You also must set up fund-transfer mechanism systems with business accounts to ensure a good business relationship and experience with the clients.

Additionally, you must communicate all transaction line items clearly in your invoices—including terms, conditions, and fees—in accordance with all payment process policies and procedures set forth by the organization you are associated with or own.

It is critical to seek the expert guidance and knowledge of insurance, legal, and accounting professionals to ensure that all of your communications to the client are clear and follow regulatory guidelines.

Payments Accepted Via Check: 

When you receive a check, take steps to verify its authenticity. A reference article from mybanktracker.com recommends the following:

  • Call the bank. Any check should have the name of the issuing institution on it.
  • Don’t call the number printed on the check. Why? The check could have fake contact information and you could be calling the fraudster to “verify” the check. Rather, look up the bank’s contact details yourself. When you call, ask them to verify whether the account the check will draw from actually exists. Most banks will do this, though, for security reasons, many won’t tell you whether there is enough in the account to cover the amount on the check.
  • You can require a cashier’s check. This allows you to avoid having to verify a personal or business account.

This type of payment receipt should go directly into your business account, from which the money will be withdrawn to pay for your client’s trip. The topic of receiving money into your bank account usually flows right into cash flow management, ethical business practices, and overall agency financials. For more information on travel agency financials, be sure to read The Travel Institute’s Travel Agency Finances Course included in the Premium Access Library.

Payments Accepted Via Credit Card Payment: 

Before accepting a credit card payment from a client, you—as a travel advisor, an independent contractor, or an agency owner—must fully understand the regulations set forth by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Any merchant that wants to process, store or transmit credit card data is required to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which sets security policies, technologies, and ongoing processes to protect payment systems from breaches and theft of credit cardholder data.

Some of the many regulations about being PCI compliant address the transfer and storage of credit card information. The PCI DSS forbids the emailing of a credit card number to a supplier, back office, or client. It also has incredibly strict regulations regarding the storage of your clients’ personal and financial information, along with a prohibition against writing a credit card number on a piece of paper. All credit card information must be stored in an encrypted server.

Regardless of the process or the form of payment you accept, the integral part of this process is to verify the authenticity of the payment. So it is imperative that you become very familiar with the security features of cash, check, credit card, and electronic payments. It also is equally important to know who your client is. Be aware of the request and qualify your lead. Sometimes when it seems too good to be true… well, that’s because it is.

Following these authentication steps will help you minimize risk and continue to offer your clients the best service possible.

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The Travel Institute, Inc. (TTI) is an educational organization that was incorporated on November 12, 1964 as a Washington, D.C. nonprofit corporation.  TTI is organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes, developing, and providing educational programs and materials relating to domestic and international travel for the general public, educational institutions and travel professionals.