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City improves credit card payment security, but work remains

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Portland is now in compliance with the standard for handling payment card transactions, according to the city auditors' office.

That does not mean the Water Bureau is ready to resume automatic payments for the city's combined water/sewer/stormwater management bills. The bureau recently contracted with a new service provider and is not expected to finish testing the new system until this summer.

According to an audit released Wednesday, May 11, "In 2015, more than 10 million payments were made to the city using credit cards or debit cards. Payment cards are used for an increasing number of payments to the city. These range from payments for parking in city-owned garages to payments for monthly water and sewer service to payments for participating in Parks and Recreation classes."

The auditor's office first reported the city was not in complacence the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for its handling of transactions in November 2014. At the time, the auditor's office said the city has not been in compliance since 2009, meaning the transactions were not as secure as possible for five years.

"The data security requirements help protect both merchants and customers from data breaches and fraud. City policies and the city’s contract with a major bank for card processing require that the City comply with this standard," according to the audit, "Payment Card Data Security: Consumer information is safer."

In response to the 2014 audit, some city agencies outsource card transaction service and other, including the water bureau, discontinued automatic services. The Bureau of Development Services discontinued over-the-phone transactions. The city also clarified roles and responsibilities regarding compliance and implemented procedures and training to improve security.

As a result, the city is now in compliance with the standards, the audit says.

But it will still a few months before the water bureau is ready to resume automatic payment services. The City Council authorized a contract between the bureau and Invoice Cloud, a private transaction service provider, earlier this year. Although the contract has been signed, tests still need to be conducted to ensure the system is secure. No start-up date has yet been announced.

You can read the audit at tinyurl.com/znwlgto.