Texas’ success and growth are largely due to its diverse and largely healthy economy, including a retail sector that, according to the Texas Retailers Association, has about 107,000 retail establishments and employs over 1.9 million Texans.
Yet unlike some of its peers, this industry and the consumers it serves remain unnecessarily threatened. According to a recently-released 2015 Global Security Report from research firm Trustwave, 65 percent of data breaches in the U.S. arise in point of sale retail purchases, compared to just 10 percent in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Large corporations, small businesses and American consumers alike continue their barrel toward an October 2015 overhaul of the U.S. credit card system. Reacting to large data breaches and mounting fraud, the credit card industry and retailers banded together to replace the less secure magnetic stripe payment cards we all use. While the breaches were done remotely by hackers, the 1970s-era stripe cards are easy to duplicate once thieves had the corresponding information tied to it.
The solution is a computer chip embedded card that creates a unique code each time a transaction occurs, which is impossible to duplicate. Soon, consumers will dip the card into a reader rather than swipe.
However, what they do after that will differ from the rest of the developed world.
The financial industry, consisting of the card issuers and the processing networks, continue to advocate for signature verification, rather than a PIN.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal: “U.S. bank executives said they are choosing the signature version so customers won’t be burdened at the checkout line to remember a new four-digit code.”
Randy Vanderhoof , executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, said in that report: “There is a lot of concern that PINs would create customer-service issues for consumers and merchants if a consumer can’t complete a transaction because they have forgotten the PIN.”
Doug Johnson, of the American Bankers Association, told NPR that, “Most credit card users in the United States, in fact the vast, vast majority of them, are not accustomed to using a PIN within a credit environment.”
Yet a 2012 study found that we use an average of eight passwords a day.
A signature is a next-to-useless verification method that leaves consumers at risk for credit card fraud. Yet, the financial industry holds steadfast in their refusal to invest in a systems that accepts PINs.
While not a magic bullet, “Chip and PIN” is a more straightforward and secure technology.
“Chip and PIN technology is neither new nor rare, nor untested,” Texas Retailers Association CEO Ronnie Volkening recently wrote. “Chip and PIN cards were introduced in the UK in 2005, and resulted in an immediate 67 percent reduction in fraud. Today, chip and PIN cards are in use in 80 countries.”
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican from Texas, been a leading advocate of increased data security measures. He authored one of at least six bills moving through Congress this year to improve data security standards and practices. But attention to payment security continues to go unnoticed.
In October 2014, President Obama issued an executive order calling for all federally-issued debit and credit cards to be equipped with chip-and-PIN technology. The initiative not only secured data protection as a top priority for the White House, but it also provided a window of opportunity for the private sector to follow suit.
Hackers will continue to pursue new methods to conduct their attacks. American financial institutions need to wake up, and invest in and use common-sense safeguards such as chip-and-PIN technology. Small businesses and their customers deserve it. Now we need leadership in Congress and by the private sector.
It is time that the United States join the rest of the world in upgrading our outdated, insecure credit card security system, and make chip-and-PIN technology the standard practice — for the benefit of consumers and the economy.
Steve Pociask is president of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonprofit organization based in Washington. Article ran in the Dallas Morning News on June 17, 2015.