CRC Offers Live Call-handling Solution that Complies with PCI Data Security Standard Requirements
CRC Offers Live Call-handling Solution that Complies with PCI Data Security Standard Requirements

According to, approximately 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards breached in 2014, more than three times the number affected in 2013. As the aggressiveness of hackers accessing sensitive credit and debit card data has increased in recent history, so has the need to thwart the attackers by limiting their access to the information. Accordingly, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council (SSC) was formed in 2006 by major credit card companies in an effort to deter and minimize these acts.

What does the PCI SSC do?
The PCI SSC works internationally, creating and promoting industry standards for card holder information. PCI SSC works with merchants, financial  institutions, point-of-sale vendors, and hardware and software developers. According to PCI SSC, their top priorities include:

  • Helping merchants and financial institutions understand and implement standards for security policies, technologies and ongoing processes that protect their payment systems from breaches and theft of cardholder data.
  • Helping vendors understand and implement standards for creating secure payment solutions.

Note that the council does not enforce compliance with PCI standards. Compliance is enforced by individual payment brands or acquiring banks. Any  organizations that accept or process payments cards are required to follow the PCI security standards or face penalties.

What is PCI compliance?
The overall goal of PCI SSC is to provide guidelines and assistance to those individuals or organizations that accept or process payment cards. According to PCI SSC, maintaining compliance with PCI standards includes the following steps:

  1. Assess: Identifying cardholder data, taking an inventory of IT assets and business processes for payment card processing, and analyzing them for vulnerabilities.
  2. Remediate: Fixing vulnerabilities and eliminating the storage of cardholder data unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Report: Compiling and submitting required reports to the appropriate acquiring bank and card brands.

PCI Data Security Standards (DSS) apply to all individuals or organizations that accept, process or store payment cards. According to PCI DSS, the following goals and objectives cover both the technical and operational system components included in or connected to cardholder data.


PCI DSS Requirements


The process to determine whether or not an organization meets PCI DSS objectives depends on the amount of payment card transactions handled by that entity on an annual basis. Although all individuals or organizations that process payment card transactions are required to be PCI compliant, only those handling over six million payments a year are required to engage a Qualified Security Assessor to complete a Report on Compliance. Most organizations
must ensure they meet the PCI DSS requirements through completion of a Self-Assessment Questionnaire and Attestation of Compliance.

CRC’s PCI compliance solution
Cooperative Response Center, Inc. (CRC) is a U.S.-based contact center serving nearly 400 members and associate members nationwide, primarily electric utilities. CRC prides itself on its service excellence, striving to answer calls with agents (versus an automated interactive voice response (IVR) system).

Like most contact centers, CRC records all calls for referral and quality monitoring purposes – creating a very difficult challenge with regard to PCI compliance since sensitive authentication data cannot be stored electronically and primary account numbers must be encrypted if stored. Many contact centers avoid this challenge by requiring billing payments to be handled by an IVR. However, since it endeavors to answer as many calls as possible with an agent, CRC sought out an agent-assisted automation solution that would continue to allow agents to handle billing payment calls that are recorded while remaining PCI compliant.

CRC found an agent-assisted automation solution in a product called CallGuard. The product changes the process of capturing payment card numbers and security codes from being spoken by the caller and then entered by an agent to being keyed into the phone by the caller and captured by the agent’s computer. The agent will hear only the sound of the numbers being keyed in (dual-toned, multi-frequency (DTMF) tones). As payment card numbers are
being keyed by the caller, the computer translates those tones into numeric data entry that is masked on the screen so the agent cannot see the numbers. A filter will then pull the DTMF tones out of the call recording and replace them with a flat tone. At the end of the call, the caller and agent have been engaged 100%, the entire call is recorded and there is no card holder data or sensitive authentication data stored in the call recording.

What is the payment transaction process?
For those organizations that utilize CRC’s billing payment services, the process of taking credit card payments has changed slightly as compared to its past process. Now, during a credit card transaction, the card number will not be communicated verbally to a CRC agent. The process will typically go, as follows:

  1. The caller will indicate to CRC’s agent he or she would like to make a payment with a credit or debit card.
  2. The agent will access the utility’s credit/debit card payment website.
  3. When the agent is ready to take the caller’s payment card information, he or she will ask the caller to enter their payment card information using their phone’s keypad. The numbers entered by the caller will appear as an asterisk (*) on the payment website in the appropriate location.

The process described above allows CRC to handle billing calls with live agents in a PCI compliant environment.

Contact CRC
For more information about CRC’s PCI compliant call-handling services, email or call 800-892-1578 and ask to speak to a regional business manager.

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