Jan. 29--TAHLEQUAH -- When thousands of Target credit cardholders' information was breached late last year, many people raised concerns about the safety of their data.
Some banks, including Nations Bank, rolled out smart cards -- containing computer chips, as opposed to standard magnetic strips -- to protect their customers' data.
The new cards, known as Europay, MasterCard, Visa (EMV) cards, include advanced security software that keeps the customer's account number and other details invisible, even if would-be thieves and hackers steal records from a store or bank.
The technology is wildly popular in western Europe, and has reduced fraud in that part of the world exponentially since its introduction over a decade ago.
But banks, card issuers and retailers in the U.S. have been slow to incorporate the technology. According to a Washington Post report, the conversion has been slowed due to an ongoing argument about who will pay the costs -- an estimated $8 billion -- to change out the cards and provide the terminals necessary to read them. Until the upgrades are made in the card readers, the new cards offer very little in the way of extra defense.
According to a report in the trade journal the Nilson Report, about half of all card losses in 2012 occurred in the U.S., and the numbers of card fraud -- once the lowest in the world -- have doubled over the past decade.
Joanna Falk, customer service representative at the Bank of Cherokee County, is aware of the technology.
"But as far as the bank is concerned, we're not looking at [introducing them] right now," said Falk.
Card networks -- including Visa, MasterCard, AmEx and Discover -- are giving card-issuing banks and retailers until the end of October 2015 to upgrade to the new technology. After the deadline, the networks will institute a "fraud liability shift." If a customer's card is involved in fraud, whichever party -- the bank issuing the card or the retailer accepting the card -- that didn't upgrade to EMV will be held accountable.
Falk said Bank of Cherokee County has not conducted a cost analysis on introducing smart cards.
"Really, smart cards haven't even been considered at the upper-management level," said Falk. "We haven't even looked into changing over yet."
Banks that have issued smart cards in the U.S. haven't changed completely to the EMV system. EMV cards require the microchip and a personal identification number (PIN) for a transaction, while U.S. smart cards require the microchip and a signature only.
Some smart cards still rely on the magnetic strip technology. The European EMV technology forces would-be thieves to have both pieces of the puzzle -- the microchip and the PIN -- before making a transaction.
Sara Trimble, a local Arvest branch bank customer service representative, said they do not offer smart cards.
"We don't offer banks cards with the computer chips, and I haven't heard anything about them being introduced anytime soon," said Trimble.
Other local banks were contacted for comment, including BancFirst and Armstrong Bank. Several messages were left at both institutions, but calls were unreturned by press time.
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