Secure Payments: Is EMV for Me?

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In light of recent credit card fraud incidents at national retailers such as Target and Neiman Marcus, Americans are looking to alternative technology to the standard magnetic strip used on credit cards, widely used since the 1960s.

EMV, Europay, MasterCard and Visa, named for the three companies who created the technology, includes a chip, where the data is encrypted and much harder to access or duplicate. It offers more protection to consumers and reduces fraud risks than the somewhat ancient magnetic strip technology.

The Identity Theft Resource Center reported 619 breaches in 2013 at well-known entities such as Target, Adobe, Kroll and Living Social, among others. However, countries that have adopted EVM technology indicate a decrease in fraud rates and a migration of fraud to non-EMV cards.

EMV is popular around the globe, but the United States is trailing in moving towards EMV. According to the Smart Card Alliance, some parts of Europe have an adoption rate of 95% while the adoption rate in the U.S. is less than 5%. Oddly enough, the U.S. is the largest user of payment cards in the world.

We must acknowledge that EMV is not entirely impenetrable. It could be that we are seeing a decrease in fraud simply because hackers are not as familiar with EMV technology. Over 50 years old, the magnetic strip is familiar territory for criminals and has become an easy target. In time, will hackers learn to crack the code of EMV technology? Despite EMV shortcomings, many believe it is certainly better than what we currently use.

Major credit card issuers, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are planning changes in late 2015, holding retailers accountable for security breaches. In 2015, we should see a shift of liability, meaning that the party that does not support EMV technology will bear the burden/liability of any counterfeit fraud that takes places.   With the threat of financial liability, we are likely to see the tide shift, and more companies using EVM than the antiquated magnetic strip.

Before EVM is available for use, prevent being a victim of credit card fraud by following these simple guidelines:

  • Don’t lend your card to anyone.
  • Shred receipts, expired cards and statements before throwing them away.
  • Don’t give your account number to anyone over the phone unless you have made the call and are familiar with the company.
  • Report any questionable activity on your account.
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Eva Velasquez

Eva Velasquez is the President/CEO at the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization which serves victims of identity theft. Velasquez previously served as the Vice President of Operations for the San Diego Better Business Bureau and spent 21 years at the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Eva has a passion for consumer protection and privacy issues and is constantly striving to educate the public about these important topics. She is recognized as a nationwide expert on identity theft and has recently been featured on the Ricki Lake show and MORE magazine, as well as numerous other outlets.