We’re living lives the same way those quirky Jetsons did in the classic animated television shows. Who didn’t want to zip around with Judy, push buttons for instant ice cream sundaes and, of course, the very cool flying saucers as the mode of transportation? So maybe we’re not quite there yet – but it won’t be long before your credit card will look like something George Jetson would use.
There seem to be a lot of breaking news stories these days about massive identity theft scams, denial of service attacks and new ways of stealing from ATMs. These are the driving force for security analysts, banks and credit card companies to shake things up in an effort to better protect their customers and their own investments. Nothing is off the table in terms of just how far companies will go.
MasterCard and LCD
MasterCard announced in recent months that it’s working on an LCD screen built into every credit card. Not only that, but each will have nifty keypads, too. The purpose of this new technology is to provide a new authentication code for every purchase the card holder makes. Anytime a purchase is made online (and most of us are conducting some kind of business online these days), there’s what banks refer to as “card not present transactions”. As it is, we simply enter our credit card number, the expiration date and the three digit authentication code on the back.
The unique number that’s provided with every single transaction should address the ease in which those printed codes are stolen. But that’s not all; in fact, efforts are being made to provide the user, via the LCD screen as the method of communication, information about how many rewards points he has, how much is due on his account, the due date, his balance and perhaps even information about where the sales are provided there’s a way to incorporate GPS onto the card.
Before you think that a credit card can’t possibly do all of that, consider the new student ID cards college campuses across the nation are using. Not only does one card allow entrance into libraries and other parts of the campus, but those cards also serve as debit or credit cards. The technology is available; it’s simply a matter of making the proper transitions and safety features into mainstream financial systems.
The transition sounds a bit time consuming, but you can be sure all of that’s being addressed and will have the right combination of safety and convenience built in by the time it’s ready for a trial run – which, by the way, should be coming in the next few months.
Another option includes entering a PIN number onto the LCD screen before your card could be used. It sounds as though it would be an additional step: entering the PIN number and then having the LCD reveal the code. It would certainly be a safer option, but there exists the mindset many of us share: change is frustrating. Entering the wrong code is even more frustrating. Trying to figure it out with ten people in line behind you – well, that sends the frustration factor into the stratosphere. What could be the clincher – the banks may take the attitude that if they’re having to shoulder the costs of identity theft and scammers, the consumers should at least be willing to sacrifice an extra minute or two at the supermarket.
It’s little wonder these great efforts are being made. With more than 15 million Americans who have their identities stolen every year and at an average of $3500 a pop, it makes sense that financial entities would want to curb it – remember, they’re the ones who eat most of those losses, courtesy of fraud protection that comes with most credit cards these days. To save you from doing the math – that totals more than $50 billion each and every year that scammers and hack cost banks. The new MasterCard should do a lot to prevent these kinds of crimes. Rest assured, too, that the other credit card networks are working on their own new technology.
Another option we might soon see are the revamped magnetic strips on the back of credit cards you already carry. This is the most cost efficient for all involved, especially merchants who’ve not warmed up to the idea of new, costly technology. Upgrading the strips means an easier compatibility with existing technology. The strips could work via changes that happen between your credit card when it’s swiped and the bank or card company. The merchant’s card readers simply work as vehicles for the transaction.
The reality is that no matter how advanced the good guys are in their efforts, there are just as many thieves waiting on the sidelines to match the advances in technology. So common is this type of theft that we rarely see news about the “small fish”; then again, the big players are so rampant that it’s rare you ever see a news broadcast that doesn’t include the latest efforts of the bigger crime rings. That’s not likely to change on an international level. No longer does a bank robbery require marching into a bank branch, face covered and gun waving, and demanding all of the money. A few keystrokes is all it takes these days. Even though the banks shoulder the costs of monies stolen from their customers, you can be sure the costs are passed down to consumers in some fashion.
Change is coming, just don’t expect a one size fits all solution and don’t get too settled with those changes; the financial market as a whole is a living and breathing entity – with so many dynamics in play that alter the numbers and procedures, those who resist are sure to get left behind.
What do you think it will take to make a dent in the number of crime rings that sit behind computers, ready to pounce and take your identity and cash? Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? Share your story with us – let us know how you and your bank handled it.