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Retailers urge adoption by Congress of PIN-based credit cards

The National Retail Federation urged the U.S. Senate on Wednesday to switch the nation from fraud-susceptible credit and debit cards to more protected cards using a personal identification number (PIN).

The NRF said credit card-issuers' insistence on cards that use a signature instead of a PIN puts merchants and their customers at risk.

In a release, the NRF said banks have done their own research – conducted almost 25 years ago that showed PIN-based cards provided more security for consumers, retailers and banks.

In a prepared statement, NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said: “The bottom line is that cards are poorly designed and fraud-prone products that the system has allowed to continue to proliferate.”

His remarks occurred at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is considering changes in light of cyber attacks in which consumer card numbers have been stolen. Duncan said current magnetic stripe cards with signatures are too easy to duplicate and forge.

“There are technologies available that could reduce fraud,” Duncan said. “An overhaul of the fraud-prone cards that are currently used in the U.S. market is long overdue.”


Some banks and many merchants say the use of a PIN, with or without an embedded microchip, would create greater security for consumers and retailers alike, Duncan said.

Northwest credit unions and banks have been hit hard twice in the past six months, first by the URM Stores card hack that affected several thousand cardholders. Then came the nationwide Target Stores card fraud, which affected several million residents and consumers.

Many advocates of improved transaction security say the United States should follow the practice in much of  Europe where only chip-based cards are accepted.

Such cards have tiny chips that generate a unique, one-time security code every time you make a purchase. That code prevents thieves from reusing the data.

The battle over chip cards has been stalled in large part because the merchants don't want to change to newer cash terminals until the new chip-based cards are approved. And banks or credit unions don't want to start ordering and distributing the chip cards until they see a significant movement by merchants to use them.

Consumer advocates also argue that more could be done to protect consumers in the case of debit card fraud. While merchants that require a signature end up with zero fraud liability, it's not clear yet whether the use of PINs would provide the same protection.

 

Office Hours continuing to offer the credit card surcharge challenge; win $5 cards

Nobody answered our invitation to win a $5 coffee card on us, by proving that a retailer is adding the new credit card optional surcharge.

Our first blog entry laid out the terms.

The offer stands.  If you can show by photo or other means (even a credit card receipt) that some retailer (after Feb. 1) began adding the surcharge, as permitted by a court settlement of a class action suit, then you'll get one of three cards we're offering to readers.

Read that entry to get the particulars. Limit, one submission per person.

We weren't confident that any retailer would start doing something that few others would. Still, we wanted to test that theory by asking the mob for any indication if it is or isn't happening.