The risks of doing business online have never been greater for businesses and their customers. Online purchase scams and frequent data leaks put consumers’ financial security and privacy at risk. To convert website visitors into paying customers, you need to show customers your website is secure from hackers.

A valid Transport Layer Security (TLS) (formerly Security Socket Layer, or SSL) certificate is the easiest way to do that, and it’s one of the components Better Business Bureau® consistently recommends consumers look for.

Consider the following reasons an unsecured website is bad for business:

Internet browsers identify your website as a security threat. A valid TLS/SSL certificate tells internet browsers your website meets standard security protocols. Without it, website visitors are greeted not with a perfectly curated homepage, but with a warning message advising users they could be susceptible to phishing. Customers won’t risk losing money or having their identity stolen to use your website, so this warning is enough to drive potential customers away from your website for good.

Your customers fall victim to scammers. An expired TLS certificate puts your customers at risk for fraud and identity theft. The certificate does more than keep your website free of warning messages, it also helps ward off some of the biggest digital threats – hackers and impostors. They do this by verifying the identity of your website and encrypting sensitive information.

You’re vulnerable to hackers. When a TLS certificate expires, user data is at risk of exposure, and you’re more vulnerable to scammers who may use your business identity to steal from customers. Shoppers who access and use impostor websites could have their identity stolen, their financial information compromised and even lose money to scammers. If an impostor uses your business’s identity, customers will associate that negative experience with your company.

Your business reputation suffers. If the first thing a customer sees when visiting your website is a warning, they will immediately identify your business as untrustworthy. Even if you quickly take action to correct the lapse in security, trust with that customer is likely lost for good. A study by Ponemon Institute estimates that one third of visitors refuse to ever revisit any website where security has lapsed.

Trust is lost with established clientele. Customers are quick to trust businesses they’ve patronized in the past, and scammers know it. An existing customer who falls victim to identity theft through your business is likely to take their business (and their referrals) elsewhere, jeopardizing the 25% sales boost that customer loyalty provides to your business.

Shoppers do business with competitors instead. Ultimately, the result of allowing your TLS certificate to lapse even momentarily could be significant damage to your reputation, sales and customer loyalty. Every customer you lose due to an expired certificate is one customer your competition could gain. To set your business up for long-term success, you need to take data security seriously and stay ahead of any potential risks.

In our digital world, customers must trust you with their personal information before they’ll decide to buy from you. Be a leader in customer privacy by only collecting information you need, safeguarding your data from thieves and being transparent about what you do with customer data. To learn more about how to protect customer data, read Data Privacy for Small Businesses. Also refer to BBB’s resources for cybersecurity.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at (903) 581-5704 or use the BBB ScamTracker.

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