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Target Red Card EMV
(Courtesy of Mastercard on Flickr)

There’s a new type of debit and credit card that will take the country by storm next year. The hope is to secure our card’s data from thieves. But the way that card issuers are rolling out the technology right now will leave us vulnerable to scammers for the foreseeable future.

Since 2011, all major card issuers (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) have tried to move American consumer to secured EMV chip cards. These cards store information in a microchip instead of on a magnetic stripe, keeping your card’s data encrypted and safe.

For chip card transaction to go through without a hitch, two things need to happen. First, the data on the chip needs to match what the bank has on file. Second, you have to verify your identity.

And therein lies the problem. In Europe, we would instantly identify (authenticate) ourselves by inserting the card into a reader and entering a 4 to 6-digit PIN number, known as the chip-and-PIN method.

Instead, American card issuers have elected to use the chip-and signature method, at least for the next few years. This requires you to sign a receipt instead of entering your PIN. Meaning, there’s no way of instantly telling the bank that the card you’re using really belongs to you.

Chip-and-signature leaves us vulnerable. Today, hackers steal our card’s data by tampering with the cash register. While chip cards will cut down on that type of theft, what happens if someone steals your physical card? Because of a lack of PIN protection, the thief can still use your card until it’s reported as lost or stolen. Furthermore, if you use your chip card overseas, you will be inconvenienced, as chip-and-signature is not supported at some businesses.

Bottom line, Visa and MasterCard have already started to issue chip cards and need to allow chip-and-PIN processing immediately, not in one to three years. It’s safer for consumers and helps to fight fraud.



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