Small Business Basics – 5 Online Fraud Prevention Tips

There are hundreds of accounts of fraudsters using various scam methods for credit card stealing, making fraudulent purchases or selling goods that never arrive at their intended destination. So much so that small businesses were literally forced to incorporate those fraud transactions into cost of doing their business online. Here are a few tips that should help a small business sustain some of the most often tried transactions – purchase with fraudulent credit cards. Some small businesses have this reason alone to choose more expensive credit card processor, like PayPal,  in order to not to deal with fraud themselves, potentially loosing thousands of dollars in revenue. These simple steps may help recover that money given that small business processes credit cards through its own merchant account.

1. Verify shipping vs. billing address. Some web sites even refuse to ship to an address that is different from billing, but that is really up to the business owner. If you sell something that could potentially be a gift, so that one relative can order it for another – pass it on, but if you sell something that people mostly order for themselves, like gadgets or novelties, then shipping address way off from billing might suggest something fishy.

2. Ask yourself – does the order make sense? If you are selling expensive merchandise that people are most likely to buy once in a while – would the order for five items make sense? Call the billing phone number to verify the purchase – it will cost you 2 minutes, but potentially can save you hundreds of dollars.

3. Have the payment cleared yet? Institute shipping and handling policies that will cover your bases while you wait for payment to clear. Sometimes it may take a day or two for payment to go through all the hoops of your payment system, be patient and wait out the whole thing. It may bounce off for a number of reasons, first of which is stolen credit card.

4. Verify the IP address‘s geographic location vs. both shipping and billing. It sounds a bit nerdy at first, but any online shopping cart can be tweaked to display originating IP address along with the order information. The task is to see if the IP address belongs to the same region as the two addresses. An order originating from Eastern Europe’s IP address that has billing address in Connecticut and shipping destination in California is hardly legit. In some cases you won’t be able to tell if the IP address is or is not located where the billing or shipping addresses are, in these cases just move on to #5.

5. Never hesitate to call the bank that have issued credit card. Have your clients enter the 800 number on the back of the credit card along with their billing information. In any doubt – call the bank and have them verify that name, billing and shipping addresses are legit. Some banks even have that option on their initial menu.


Crystal Ball: Tablet Computers Are Part Of The Future, Just Not All Of Them

As we hear more and more about Apple selling 2 million iPads during first 60 days more and more companies are placing their bets on tablet computers. So far we’ve heard about HP Slate (canceled though) and a lot of other devices. Most of them should have been running some flavor of Windows. Some are heard to be running Android. With the demise of Palm and HP’s taking over there’s hope that WebOS will pop its head some time later.

Here’s the deal. Tablet computer isn’t a real personal computer – the way we understand the meaning of the word. Even though it may feel like one. We don’t perceive our cars’ computerized inner workings as personal computer – although it sports same kind of CPU-chipset-memory-output paradigm as any other computer does. We don’t think of doing any real work on XBox gaming console, even though it has been demonstrated to be able to do such things with ease on older models and – with some extra effort – on current ones.

In similar fashion the tablet computers are more narrow-tasked devices. They won’t replace your main computer if you are doing any kind of serious work. You can, of course, go to some lengths to push through some productivity, but slate devices aren’t quite fit for it by design. This is similar to how some people write software on their iPhones or Andriod devices (and I knew quite a lot of people who were writing some Java code on their Palm devices 10 -12 years ago). While I respect the effort, I believe there are more comfortable ways to code.

From the way the device is used stems the general idea of what operating system should be running on the device. It may seem to make logical sense to try and stuff fully featured Windows onto a slate to take advantage of already created applications. However, I cannot imagine anyone using Adobe Photoshop or AutoCAD on a tablet. Nor can I imagine someone typing up a huge report in MS Word, using Excel charts or creating PowerPoint presentations. You should be able to view them, no doubt about it, but imagine working with a 500MB Excel file that’s ridden with formulas and macros on a significantly underpowered CPU and screen that is smaller than one you had 10 years ago. It may be possible, of course, but why suffer? I’ve seen people creating a simple PowerPoint presentation on a netbook with a 10″ screen, working with more or less simple Excel tables and there was much pain and suffering. Now remove the physical keyboard…

In addition to that – think about the battery life. All those full-featured application are optimized (if at all) to run as fast as possible, utilizing the most of CPU and memory made available, effectively draining as much power as they want. This isn’t an issue on a power-connected machine, but on a device that is mostly battery-powered it is hardly an advantage. That’s why most of tablets running Windows are only capable of doing 2 – 3 hours on a battery. Compare that with 10 hours of iPad and you will understand the difference.

Since this post is named “Crystal Ball”, I’d go ahead and make a prediction for the next 5 years. Tablet devices running some sort of mobile operating system (Android, WebOS, OSX, maybe even some flavor of stripped-down Windows) will gradually replace any other portable computing devices – e-book readers, netbooks and some of the smaller laptops. The smallest size of the laptop to survive would be something along the lines of MacBook Air. Anything smaller is a torture to use for any serious work, so tablets will be used instead for reading, web/e-mail and some light work – document reviews, notes, memos, as well as entertainment – movies, games, music. They will complement smartphones rather than replacing them. With proliferation of cloud-storage and applications that are capable of taking advantage of that storage, tablet computers will become mainstream, ubiquitous consumer devices – much like walkmans were back in nineties.