Monday, February 26, 2007

Credit Card Ridiculousness

If you ask me (and, you didn't), I think that credit card fraud has just become retarded. Okay, so this post has nothing to do with parenting, or kids, or renovation, or geckos, but this morning I heard a story on NPR about a bill in Massachusetts government that would tie retailers to the costs involved in a credit card scam. As I understand it currently part of the credit card company's business model is to assume some level of fraud, yet stay profitable even while paying consumers back for the fraudulent transactions by passing fees to the retailers. The bill would make the retailers pay for the charges. I hereby announce that I am completely on the fence about this insane concept, and with good reason. Both sides of the argument suck.

You walk into your local Target. Buy your Isaac Mizrahi hand towels, your OXO Salad Spinner, and a copy of the first season of Family Guy. At the checkout, you whip out your Visa and fed it into the card-sucker. You scribble some sort of hieroglyph on the little LCD that perhaps might resemble your signature if it had been on paper with a real pen, and you're on your way. Young Tanya Fakenails behind the checkout counter never even saw your card. Real good security there.

Then you head to the local BP, where you fill up on gas where the only one watching you is the overtired pediatrician at the other pump dying to get home and crash. Nope, no card security there. Oh, and while you're at it, you head into the Quick-E-Mart and pick up a box of smokes, a Ho-Ho and, what the heck, a Ding Dong so you can do a comparison test. Joe Buzzcut behind the counter doesn't look up from the fabulous article on neon add-ons for his Honda Civic muffler in his latest issue of StreetRide long enough to check the signature, never mind ask for any sort of ID to match that signature.

On your way home you stop at Home Depot to pick up a replacement toilet flush valve, a bag of Thinset, and a Fubar. Since the total comes to just under $50, you don't even have to SIGN your card receipt when you pay. How's that for ease of use??!

In all these cases, it seems perfectly reasonable that the retailers should pay. My wife had her cards stolen a couple years ago. About $500 was spent on our cards before they were canceled, and the spending spree seemed to be pretty much as described above. Now our cards say "ASK FOR ID" in big ol' Sharpie across the back AND the front of the cards, but even then only about 50% of the merchants taking the card actually ask.

But then there's the security of the cards themselves. Why do ATM cards use a PIN number, yet credit cards don't? But wait, they do! You can have a PIN on your Visa, if you want to withdraw money from an ATM and get charged a ridiculous interest rate. Does anyone actually do that? So if that's the case...oh wait, I just answered my own question. Because the card companies make money off the poor shlub who confused his Visa with his bank ATM card and hit "debit" by mistake. That's the reason I immediately shred that piece of mail with the PIN number that comes two days after my new credit card.

It's been said that benefits of enabling better security measures are outweighed by the cost. So, the credit card companies can issue new machines that allow you to make the very confusing and dangerous choice of "credit or debit" on their credit card readers now (have you noticed what a recent phenomenon that is?) but they can't afford to put together PIN technology that ALREADY EXISTS.

Seems to me the credit card companies are being greedy. Who'da thunk that would happen.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Forget a pin number... what about adding finger print ID's to automated cc tellers. Kind of like the ones they use on IBM laptops. I know there's definitely enough room on the CC magnetic strip to include fingerprint info.