The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Credit card fraud – we are all vulnerable

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As the holiday shopping season approaches, people will descend in a frenzy onto retail stores large and small to spend their hard earned money on gifts for their loved ones.  And with so many of these folks using credit and debit cards for purchases this is a perfect reminder to retailers that they must do everything in their power to protect customers from credit fraud.

In the years since millions of customers were victims of data breaches at large retailers like Home Depot and Target, banks and credit card companies have taken initiatives to make sure their customers’ information is protected and their money safe.  Improved technology like credit card chips have made cards more secure.  Banks have fortified their customer databases with stronger firewalls against hackers.

{mosads}This is about more than the nuisance of waiting for a new credit card to come in the mail.  Many people who are the victims of data breaches have the entire contents of their checking account stolen, causing serious disruption in their lives.  Banks and credit card companies have whole departments dedicated to claims of fraud, who work with customers to get their money back as soon as possible.  Banks have responded to the increasing need for fraud prevention and detection, but comparatively, retailers have done little to reduce fraud, except offer apologies as part of their crisis public relations strategy after the hack has already happened.

It can take several days for banks to do their investigation, and restore funds into an account.  For someone who is rich, this is simply an inconvenience to be waited out. For members of the working middle-class this can be a time-consuming challenge.  But for low-income customers, this can be devastating, especially when bills must be paid on time.  This crime can happen to anyone, rich, middle-class or poor – hackers do not seem to discriminate between big box stores and luxury retailers, but the effects of their crimes hit low-income people the hardest.

I suggest that the big retailers partner with financial institutions to increase fraud prevention efforts and use the same standards that financial institutions use to keep customers’ money safe.  There is a weak link in the chain right now – money comes in to an account at the consumer’s bank, is saved and managed, until it is ready to be spent at the checkout. It is safe up until the point where the credit or debit card is given to the retailer and that is where these problems start.  Customers want to leave the store with Christmas gifts, not a case of stolen financial information.

Retailers, especially large ones that would be prime targets for hackers, have a responsibility to protect consumers who are the reason for their profit.  Financial institutions have taken steps to secure customer information and prevent fraud, and retailers should be able to do the same to keep their customer base safe.  The respect it would show for consumers would be a worthy investment.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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