Lethargics of the world unite. The simple task of paying with credit cards is now even simpler. The newest technology will allow people to scan their cards on a machine that will read information, thus making receipt-signing and pin-entering obsolete. While this method of making purchases could speed up long lines and make paying easier, recent studies
by the University of Massachusetts found several holes in the idea.
Ideally, participating stores will put small machines near their checkout counters where customers with the appropriate credit cards can simply hold their cards in front of the machine and be done with the checkout process. A major concern is identity theft, and the new cards are no exception. When a customer scans the card, the information should be encrypted so scammers cannot steal a person’s information.
However, according to a recent “New York Times” article, encryption may not be enough to deter credit card scammers from stealing valuable information. American Express and J.P. Morgan Chase have both said their cards are highly encrypted, making it extremely difficult for thieves to access information. Tests conducted
on 20 different credit cards beg to differ.
Research showed that information was being transmitted in plain text, making those people much more likely to become victims of identity theft. A simple device fashioned from computer and radio parts could easily pick up the info, which is transmitted from the card by using radio waves.
Moreover, some cards can be read from a few feet away, through wallets and clothing.While the potential risks that come with this new technology may seem too dangerous for some consumers, executives from card companies assure their safety and the tests done are not a reflection of real world situations.
They also stated there are many backup security measures should encryption fail. Such measures include dummy numbers, or fake info that does not match the number on the credit card, and can only be used upon verification.
If criminals were to scan this information with an illegal device, they would receive the useless dummy information, not the victim’s real credit card information.
However, not all cards possess this feature. The tests on the new cards made identity theft look like child’s play, but the companies argue their products are safe.
The only way to find out if the new cards pose a greater identity theft is to test them in the real world. Credit card users will take their chances with the new cards and risk theft, or allow credit card companies to experience huge losses if people are unwilling to risk their identities. As a customer, I wouldn’t take the chance.
Aside from the potential risks, the new credit cards have other flaws. For instance, while encryption may help prevent theft, it can also considerably slow down the payment process, and is expensive for companies to maintain. A malfunctioning card-reading machine at a checkout counter could result in the inability of customers
to use their cards.
In theory, the new credit card system sounds great. It’s more convenient, and could definitely save time in those dreaded checkout lines. However, when put into practice the idea seems wasteful. The time and money it would take to install the system nation wide and get it up and running isn’t worth the few extra seconds of time customers will save. Signing a receipt or entering a pin really doesn’t take much time, and the potential malfunctions in the system could cause serious back-ups.
It’s better to save a customer’s identity than a few seconds.
Shannon McDonald can be reached at