Merchant Monitoring Programs: Your Last Chance to Get Chargebacks & Fraud Under Control
Beyond facilitating payments, card networks like Visa and Mastercard also have a responsibility to protect users from fraud and abuse in the payments ecosystem.
They’re very protective of their brands. As a result, they impose strict rules and regulations about how merchants like you can operate on their network. Chargeback monitoring is a good example of this.
If the number of chargebacks or fraud incidents you see on either card network exceeds the limit set by the brand in question, you could be entered into a merchant monitoring program.
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Why do Merchant Risk Monitoring Programs Exist?
Merchant monitoring programs are a body of similar initiatives created and maintained by Visa and Mastercard. These programs track your merchant activity, generally on a month-to-month basis.
Being entered into one of these programs can result in added fees and penalties being imposed on your business. It could also mean restrictions are imposed on your activity; for instance, if you receive a dispute assigned Visa reason code 10.5, and you're entered into the Visa Fraud Monitoring Program, your ability to fight that dispute will be restricted. Even worse, being entered into one of these programs could lead to your account being frozen or terminated, depending on the severity of your situation.
We need to get this clear right up front: the aim of these programs is not to punish anyone. Instead, the goal is to identify high-risk merchants and, ultimately, to help those merchants improve sales processes and reduce risk in the long term.
Merchant monitoring programs can be focused on tracking two key areas of merchant risk: criminal fraud and chargebacks. Here's how each of those work in more detail.
What is a Fraud Monitoring Program?
- Fraud Monitoring Program
A fraud monitoring program is an initiative maintained by one of the global card networks, aimed at tracking merchant activity and identifying those who process an excessive number of fraudulent transactions.
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If you’re inducted into a fraud monitoring program, it’s typically because you’re experiencing a high volume of fraud-related disputes. Initiatives like the Visa Fraud Monitoring Program (VFMP) and the Mastercard Excessive Fraud Merchant program (EFM) are examples of this.
The basic aim of these fraud monitoring programs is twofold. First, they want to help merchants manage their individual criminal fraud risk. In turn, this will help protect the larger payments environment.
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What is a Chargeback Monitoring Program?
- Chargeback Monitoring Program
A chargeback monitoring program is an initiative maintained by one of the global card networks, aimed at tracking merchant activity and identifying those who receive an excessive number of disputed transactions. These disputes can be—but are not necessarily—tied to a fraud-related reason code.
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In contrast to the fraud programs outlined above, if you’re forced into a chargeback monitoring program, it’s because you see a high volume of disputes. These dispute claims can be tied to both fraud- and non-fraud-related reason codes.
Like the VFMP and EFM, the basic aim of a chargeback monitoring program is to help merchants prevent chargebacks, and to protect the larger payments ecosystem in the process.
Chargebacks and fraud putting your business in jeopardy? The faster you act, the better the outcome.
Yes. These programs operate independent of one another, and all have specific, unique criteria for inclusion. For example, if the number of Visa disputes you receive with a “fraud” reason code exceed the threshold for both the VDMP and the VFMP, you can be forced to participate in both. Also, exiting one doesn’t mean you’ve exited both programs.
Other Programs to Know About
So, as we outlined above, both Visa and Mastercard have dedicated initiatives to manage fraud and chargeback risks. There are a few other programs that are part of this same ecosystem, too, which we should talk about briefly.
Visa Fraud Monitoring Program-3DS
3-D Secure, or 3DS, is an antifraud software protocol. When used properly, it can help deter a substantial number of fraud attacks.
If you use 3-D Secure antifraud software in this market, but exceed fraud thresholds on 3DS transactions, you’ll be relegated to the VFMP-3DS silo. This program is dedicated to fraud tracking practices specific to 3DS technology.
The VFMP-3DS “Early Warning” threshold is set at a fraud rate of 0.5% and at least $5,000 in total fraud from 3-D Secure transactions. The “Standard” threshold is set at a fraud rate of 0.75% and at least $7,500 in total fraud from 3-D Secure transactions.Learn more about 3-D Secure
Visa Issuer Monitoring Program
Do you think it’s unfair that all the burden for fraud and chargebacks land on merchants? Well, the truth is that issuers have their own compliance standards to adhere to as well.
A bank will be subject to the VIMP if the total fraudulent card-not-present transactions they process in a single month either meets or exceeds a predetermined threshold. At that point, the bank is allowed a three-month Notification Period similar to the workout period allowed for merchants under the VFMP or VDMP. After this window expires, the issuer will enter the Enforcement Period, at which point Visa imposes stiff penalties.Learn more about VIMP
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How to Avoid Merchant Monitoring Programs
You’d be forced into a merchant monitoring program because of excessive fraud transactions, excessive chargebacks, or both. Thus, the key to avoiding the fees and restrictions associated with these programs is to prevent fraud and chargebacks.
Well, as you probably already know, that’s a lot easier said than done.
Chargeback issuances, both fraud- non-fraud-related, have been surging in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic was partially to blame. However, the trend was already well-established before the virus outbreak. That’s not to say chargebacks and fraud are inevitable, though. You just need to adopt the right strategies and technologies.
I Need Help Now! What Can I Do?
The strategies outlined above will put you on solid footing for a long-term, strategic approach to reduce fraud and chargebacks and avoid a merchant monitoring program. For a lot of merchants, though, time may be of the essence.
The best solution for seeing a rapid reduction in chargeback issuances is to adopt chargeback alerts technology.
Chargeback alerts are a dispute prevention product provided by a chargeback management specialist. Alerts providers work closely with banks to ensure that you receive advance notice of impending chargebacks. This lets you resolve the issue before a chargeback happens.
You can think of chargeback alerts and other tools like network inquiries as a stop-gap measure. They can be the decisive factor to defend you against chargebacks while you work to roll out a long-term solution.Learn more about chargeback alerts
Have other questions about fraud and chargeback monitoring programs? Want to learn how you can protect your business against the fees and restrictions that come from merchant fraud chargeback monitoring?
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What is a merchant fraud monitoring program?
A fraud monitoring program is an initiative maintained by one of the global card networks, aimed at tracking merchant activity and identifying those who process an excessive number of fraudulent transactions. The basic aim of these fraud monitoring programs is twofold. First, they want to help merchants manage their individual criminal fraud risk. In turn, this will help protect the larger payments environment.
What is a chargeback monitoring program?
A chargeback monitoring program is an initiative maintained by one of the global card networks, aimed at tracking merchant activity and identifying those who receive an excessive number of disputed transactions. If you’re forced into a chargeback monitoring program, it’s because you see a high volume of disputes. These dispute claims can be tied to both fraud- and non-fraud-related reason codes.
What happens if I’m placed in a fraud or chargeback monitoring program?
You’ll generally be given a set window of time in which to bring your fraud and/or chargeback activity back to an acceptable level. If you’re unable to do this, the card network will impose hefty fees and other restrictions on your account. If you’re still unable to resolve the problem by the end of the program duration, your acquirer may be forced to terminate your bank account.
How do I exit the chargeback monitoring program?
You must reduce your monthly chargeback issuances to a level deemed “acceptable” by the card network. Visa, for instance, imposes a chargeback threshold of 0.9% of monthly transactions and 100 chargebacks for the VDMP Standard initiative.