The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 30, 2013

Consumers must demand security

NORMAN — News that cyber-criminals have put accounts of 40 million customers of retail giant Target at risk is a sober reminder that as much as you might think your credit and debit card transactions are safe from theft, they’re not.

Target isn’t the first, or the largest. Nor will it be the last victim of cyber-crime, which is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States. For sure, the U.S. is where the money is, but U.S. banks, credit card companies and retailers are woefully behind their European counterparts in tackling this threat.

Consumers and lawmakers must demand tighter security on personal information, the theft of which can cause years of consternation. Financial networks are more connected than ever, leaving many entry points for thieves to exploit any transaction to rack up unauthorized charges.

After dozens of high-profile data breaches in recent years, you’d think retailers and financial institutions would have installed state-of-the-art security technology — especially at the checkout counter.

Unfortunately, many haven’t. Sophisticated fraud prevention technology is expensive, and retailers, banks and credit card companies all want someone else to pay for it. The Nilson Report, which tracks these things, says financial fraud reached a record $11.2 billion last year. That’s a staggering figure to the average person but only amounts to about 5.2 cents for every $100 transaction. Companies often chalk up this loss as a cost of doing business or pass along the expense to consumers.

As a customer, you should find this a maddening and unacceptable calculation. If a breach causes you to be a victim of identity theft, you can be sure that your retailer, bank or credit rating agency will not be of much help. You’ll be on your own to straighten out your financial life.

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