Ditching the Paper Trail: Is Paperless Billing Really Secure?

Business.com / Financial Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

There might be more reasons to go paperless than just to save trees. Does a mailbox sans bills mean your information is more secure?

Cloud this, paperless that. The way of the world has moved increasingly online, and though it's benefits are clear, the security is not. With data breaches in the news every other day, and identity theft seeming like a normal occurrence, how can we feel good about taking our billing practices out of the mailbox and into the paperless oblivion?

If you think you're protected by an envelope and federal laws, you may be mistaken. Not only are electronic billing processes more cost effective than traditional paper-based systems, but they can also offer enhanced security for your business and customers. Here’s why:

Paper mail makes customer data vulnerable

Identity thieves need little more than a few pieces of information, like an account number and an address, to attempt identity theft and fraud. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that identity theft tops the list of consumer complaints. Paper bills introduce significant opportunities for sensitive information to be compromised, due to basic and innocent human error.

Assuming paper bills do reach the post office correctly, the opportunities for error are still present. Though the percentage of mail that gets lost isn’t actively reported or measured, the United States Postal Service said it handled more than 160 billion pieces of mail in 2013 alone.

The reality of such high volume is that sensitive information does occasionally get lost in transit, or delivered to an incorrect recipient or address. Should that mail be a paper bill containing a customer’s account information or similar confidential content, the customer could fall prey to a breach.

If the paper bill does make it to the rightful owner, security still isn’t guaranteed; statistics from Harris Interactive report that 23 percent of adults lose paper bills. Paperless billing can help minimize security risks, whether emailed directly to a customer’s personal account, or made available for customer download behind your secured billing website.

Related Article: 11 Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Billing Automation Tips

Sensitive data can be managed by the customer

Paperless billing allows you to protect sensitive information, with the participation and control of customers. By requiring customers to create an online account with a unique user name and password, you minimize the likelihood that sensitive account information is accessed by anyone other than the rightful owner. 

Additional protective measures like forced password updates and password requirements that mandate a stated number of characters, letters, symbols and numbers help protect your business if hackers attempt to access customer accounts, or dishonest employees try to view protected customer information.

Billing information can be protected with SSL certificates

Secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates enhance the security of paperless billing systems, in addition to the basic protocol of requiring a customer to establish a user name and password.

Indicated by the 'https://' preceding the secure site’s web address, SSL ensures there is a safe link between the user’s browser and the website so that any sensitive information exchanged as part of the transaction, including log-in credentials, and the input and processing of customer payment information is encrypted throughout. 

Any business that handles sensitive customer information, including accepting debit or credit cards as a form of payment must use SSL, for the confidence and protection of customers, and for the risk management of the business accepting the customer’s sensitive payment data.

Related Article: Cloud Security: How to Protect Your Business from Data Leaks

Enhanced protection for your records and archived data

Paper records must be proactively protected from unforeseen disasters that could impair your place of business, including fire, earthquakes, tornadoes or water damage that may occur as a result of a structural issue, storm or plumbing malfunction.

Additionally, paper billing records may be prone to theft. Despite the media attention that technology-driven security breaches tend to garner, data breaches and theft still happens when thieves pose as legitimate customers, vendors or service providers to access your business’s sensitive paper records.

Paperless billing ensures you have multiple copies of customer account records if a natural or unforeseen disaster happens, and keeps billing records password protected and private from anyone other than authorized users who may enter your business facilities.

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