The following content is sponsored by the Electronic Payments Coalition.
Financial fraud is on the rise. Thousands of criminals work day-and-night to try to get your credit card information and personal information. Hackers in China, Russia, and a host of other countries have realized how lucrative it is to gain someone’s financial information and quickly make purchases before it’s shut down. It’s why card networks, banks, and credit unions have invested hundreds of millions in tracking and trying to prevent fraud.
But, in a surprise to no one, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois doesn’t really care. His latest bill will put Americans at greater risk of being hacked and exposed to foreign payment networks. Sen. Durbin for years has done the bidding of Walmart and Target, who would prefer not to run payments over secure, more expensive networks, but would rather route customer’s payments overseas which is much cheaper but also way less secure.
But Walmart and Target can’t just do this on their own. They need a new law that allows the Federal Reserve to control how payments are processed so that they can ignore the current requirements of brand-name cards like Visa and Mastercard. They are working hard to lobby senators on the left and right to do them this favor. What they’re leaving out of their lobbying pitch is that it will put American consumers at risk.
If you pay for something at a store with a credit card, the retailer currently has to use the routing network of whatever card you give them, if they choose to accept credit cards. So, if you picked out a Mastercard or Visa card because of its security guarantees and perks, you know that your financial information is being safely routed over their network with their 21st century technology. This new law on the table will destroy that security. If it moves forward, retailers will be able to ignore your preferred network and instead pick an alternative network of their choice. It’ll be cheaper but also lead to an increase in fraud and a headache for all involved.
Fraud is already a major problem for consumers. Unfortunately, retailers have an extremely poor track record of protecting their customers. The Target data breach is one that immediately comes to mind for a lot of people. Through a third-party vendor Target used, hackers stole the data of up to 40 million credit and debit cards. Nearly every state attorney across the country sued Target on behalf of consumers, and Target had to pay out millions in settlements. And it wasn’t just the credit card information compromised. Reportedly 70 million customers had personal information compromised including addresses and phone numbers.
Another example that comes to mind is Wawa. If you aren’t familiar with the brand, imagine your typical 7-11 or neighborhood convenience store. Wawa has hundreds of stores and gas stations up and down the east coast. Hackers deployed malware on Wawa’s point-of-sale systems, allowing access to payment card data. Although Wawa didn’t admit wrongdoing, they agreed to settlements after multiple states attorney generals sued, alleging that Wawa did not have reasonable security measures in place.
So why should we trust retailers and the federal government to control how the payments system works? It is clear retailers want this to save money and pad their profits. Sen. Durbin wants to see the government grow in its control of payments and doesn’t mind doing a favor for big-box stores. It’ll be up to consumers to shout from the rooftops how dangerous this is to their financial security.