MOST smaller firms selling products online are not safeguarding their customers’ payment details properly, it is claimed.

The alert comes from IT consultancy firm ITwiser, a division of Cleckheaton-based accountancy firm Clough & Company.

The firm, which carries out security audits on businesses based in West Yorkshire that trade online, has found that almost 80% haven’t had their security systems checked or updated since they were first installed.

Martin Clark, who heads ITWiser, said: “The people running many of these businesses have trusted in the company or individual who designed and built their website to ensure all the security procedures are in place to protect their customer’s personal details.

“Unfortunately, in a vast number of cases these systems have never been checked to make sure they work and with new threats constantly emerging, it’s essential that businesses have their systems updated at least once a year to guarantee customer safety.”

E-commerce businesses that have the IT systems checked by ITWiser are provided with an accredited certificate of safety.

Said Mr Clark: “We work for all sorts of businesses that sell items online and have found that there are gaping holes in many of the IT systems that can be quickly identified and remedied.

“However, once security has been breached and customers’ details have been exposed, the damage for that company is irredeemable.

“For peace of mind and responsible trading it’s essential regular checks are made,” said Mr Clark.

“The safety certificate also benefits businesses as it can help reduce insurance premiums, so we are encouraging anyone who trades online to review and check the systems they have in place.”