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That Chip on Your Credit Card Isn’t Stopping Fraud After All

Feb 01, 2017

That new chip you have in your credit card may not end up protecting you anymore from fraud than the old strips.

Although the security chips, which have become increasingly ubiquitous at stores across the nation, have made it harder for criminals to counterfeit credit and debit cards, fraud has actually risen over the last year, according to a new study. Thieves, it appears, have figured out new ways to pilfering cash through the plastic in your wallet.

The new study from research firm Javelin Strategy & Research found that incidents of identify fraud rose 16% in 2016, costing individuals $16 billion in loses, which was an all-time high. In all, 15.4 million victims were affected, 2 million more than in 2015, representing 6.15% of all consumers. The study did not look exclusively at credit card, but Javelin said the vast majority of identity theft fraud is linked to credit cards.

The rise in fraud, which totaled $700 million more in loses than the previous year, seems counterintuitive. Many thought the use of electronic chips would derail criminal activity. But as it turns out, the new electronic chips embedded in cards seem to be actually spurring on more fraud than they prevent. The chips have made it harder for thieves walk into a store and purchase goods with a counterfeit card, so the criminals are keeping their illegal activity online, where the new chips do not come into play. The anonymity of the internet also makes fraud less risky than an in-person scam where the criminal’s face is likely on camera, and the possibility of immediate apprehension by authorities exists. So in a way the new chips have helped fraudsters stay out of trouble. Card-not-present fraud, which is when a thief buys something online or by phone, rose 40%.

Another area that saw lots of new activity is account takeovers, which increased 61% over 2015, totaling 1.4 million incidents. Account takeovers occur when thieves gain to access someone’s accounts and change the contact and security information. The criminals are then free to make charges without the victim’s knowledge since any warnings or notifications are sent back to the thieves themselves. Incidents where new accounts were opened in consumers’ names without their knowledge increased 40%, which comes out to 1.8 million victims.

Moving forward, banks, credit card companies, and retailers will need to keep being vigilant in order to keep fraud under control. Online retail sales totaled $22 trillion last year and are expected to top $27.7 trillion in 2020, according to eMarketer. And as is evidenced by the fraudsters’ willingness to adapt to changing security measures, no matter how many new safeguards are created, there will always be some vulnerability they will try to exploit.

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