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Steadfast reliability is a critical way to build and maintain trust with your customers. Consumers who are anxious about their current circumstances will find comfort and security in those merchants that are most reliable. From a payments perspective, this means an “always on” system that is tested and solid. Focus on your platform’s ability to support quick and easy payments, even during times of heavy volume. It is also important to not implement unnecessary changes or perform non-critical maintenance during these times.

Customer payments journey

Online shoppers don’t want to spend time waiting because a merchant’s website cannot cope – they will simply go elsewhere. And in-store they may have even less patience when it comes to completing payment; they could understandably feel very nervous if the checkout takes a long time. Checkout – and by extension payment – optimization is therefore an important area of focus, and merchants also need to pay attention to any shifts in consumer payment method preferences, for example, contactless card payments with increased limits being rolled out, as well as mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.


Uncertain times focus customers on the safety aspects of payment – whether online or at the point of sale (POS). Unfortunately, this is also prime time for fraudsters looking to take advantage of the disruption. Here are a couple of specific fraud types we expect to see increase during the COVID-19 crisis:

1. Phishing

Banks have already begun warning account holders of an increase in phishing activity. Phishing schemes involve official looking emails or other communications, which appear to come from trusted sources, that ask users to divulge sensitive account information. These fraudulently obtained details are then used in payments to acquire goods online, harming both the customer and the merchant.

Phishing generally fits one of two common typologies: account takeover and synthetic fraud. During an account takeover, a fraudster will lock an account holder out of their account while enjoying complete access to it. Synthetic fraud involves a fraudster mixing stolen, real information with fake information to create fraudulent accounts.

2. Friendly fraud

We also expect an increase in friendly fraud. With financial pressures mounting, consumers may begin charging back goods that were legitimately ordered and received. Fraud patterns could take longer to emerge as banks, due to personnel limitations, may take longer to confirm fraud or chargebacks.

As always, it is important that consumers remain vigilant in tracking their accounts. Raise inquiries with banks on any suspicious transactions, with careful attention paid to very low-value purchases that are sometimes an indicator of fraud.

Merchants must also keep a close eye on their transaction patterns, as fraud can reveal itself in many ways. Our own risk team is currently working with merchant customers in assessing data and emerging patterns, helping them to adapt quickly despite the current state of disruption.


Remember, we’re all in this together. Consumers will remember the positive experiences provided to them by merchants during this critical period. Consider how your payment systems can ease your customers’ ability to get critical items, shop safely from home and even get quick refunds when needed.

There’s also the physical safety element offered by digital payments. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have quickly pushed consumers in large parts of the world towards cashlessness. How you respond, and the types of payments you can support, will go a long way towards helping your consumers weather this crisis.

Looking ahead

While we are in the midst of uncertainty, any effort you can afford to direct toward planning ahead for when life starts to normalize will be time well spent. Our new normal will be a new kind of normal, as this crisis will have made many consumers think differently about how they shop. Many will continue to do more online, or through click-and-collect, and merchants would do well to improve their long-term ability to service demand and create a great online payments experience. This includes adding support for the preferred payment methods in each country and fraud protection that is sensitive to local country patterns.

In-store systems will similarly need to cater for new payment methods and a desire for reduced contact. Consumers will increase their multi-channel interaction and will feel most comfortable with merchants that operate consistently and seamlessly in this way. Merchants will be well positioned if they sketch out those payment scenarios that will be most in demand and ensure they are able to capture the loyalty of a consumer with a new mindset.

Find out more about Defeating COVID-19 Inspired Fraud in our Infographic.

Contributing Author

John has been in the payments industry for 18 years. He started with a technical focus, building and deploying payment systems across EMEA. He spent time leading a professional services team for S1 Corporation and, subsequently, a solution design team. When S1 was acquired by ACI, he led the mobile banking team for a number of years, before transitioning to a focus on Merchant Payment solutions. During his time at ACI, John was responsible for the strategy of ACI’s Merchant Payment Solution. This included a full omni-channel offering, giving merchants the ability to offer a consistent and seamless payment experience across all their consumer touchpoints while managing the system through a single centralized business portal. Besides the core focus on merchant solution strategy, John played a leading role in driving innovation inside ACI – having launched a world-class mobile payments solution and integrated new and valuable capabilities for merchants into the ACI offering.