[Dave Birch] Just as the discussion about whether to start using “chip and PIN” in the US is starting to get under way (more on this in a future post), and people are beginning to find it harder to use stripe cards at some European acceptance points, it’s also getting harder to use chip cards over there. This is because the introduction of chip and PIN cards — without any corresponding enhancement to terminal security or CNP security — has caused a massive increase in card fraud (it’s now triple what it was when the migration started). A lot of this fraud has been exported to places without chip and PIN infrastructure and, in particular, without chip and PIN ATMs. In a perverse way it also seems to have nudged criminals towards the Internet, and once they get there they go nuts because it’s so easy.

A spokesman for the UK Cards Association trade body said the figures were ‘not good’, but insisted they should be seen in the context of the massive rise in on-line shopping.

[From ‘Dynamic’ security system developed as cash card fraud spirals out of control | Mail Online]

Fair point. The figures are not good (and getting worse) but they are not growing as fast as overall e-commerce. This is no comfort. The absolute level of card fraud, already a billion dollar business in the UK, is an unacceptable subsidy to the criminal fraternity. And law-abiding citizens are collateral damage (damn, I am spending too much time watching The Wire).

I just got off the phone with my wife, who is in the US at the moment. She was returning her rental car to the airport and stopped in at the gas station to fill it up before she returned it. But the gas station didn’t take credit cards. My wife, being a normal person (ie, someone who doesn’t read this blog), was shocked. To her, it’s only in third-world countries that you can’t pay with cards at a gas station. But it was cash only. No help. She doesn’t have any cash, because her UK ATM card was declined in two different ATMs in the Bay Area.

We have a joint bank account so I called the bank to see if I could help her out. After listening to some nice music and some adverts for some kind of savings bonds and life insurance, I eventually got through to a chap who told me that despite us having had a joint account at the bank for a quarter of a century, they couldn’t help. She would have to call in person from the US to get her card enabled for use in the US. I thought that I might be able to use my 2FA dongle in some way to prove that it is actually me on the phone, but it was no help. They are only for the Internet, and there’s no menu in the home banking for “fix my wife’s ATM card so it works in the US please”.

She couldn’t be bothered to do this, because she was in a hurry to get a plane and didn’t want to rack up a massive mobile phone bill listening to Vivaldi, so she borrowed a couple of hundred bucks from a friend. Given the hassle we went through last time we tried to wire some money to a personal account in the US, I won’t bother this time and will just PayPal the money back to her. Hands up who thinks that payments are working, so there’s no room for nonsense such as P2P cards, contactless stickers and mobile money transfer in the “developed” markets?

It also happens that while in the US, she wanted to order some expensive boots for a friend, so she bought them online and gave the delivery address as the house where she was staying in San Francsico. The next day she got an e-mail to say that the order would not be shipped because she was using a UK credit card. She called me, completely puzzled (and angry), asking me what the point of having Visa or MasterCard cards was if they don’t work everywhere, which is kind of what she (as a normal consumer) thought they did. Oh dear.

Things aren’t working here either. Both of my credit cards were declined by the machines at the train station: the unattended ticket machines and the attended machine steadfastly refused to accept either a Visa or MasterCard credit card. In the end, I was forced to use a debit card. I assume it’s a scam and criminals have infiltrated South West Trains in order to capture debit card details and PINs.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. You’ll know you have spent too much time watching The Wire when you start using “re-up” in relation to prepay products.
    e.g. “I just need to re-up my Oyster, see you on the platform”

  2. This is quite the classic series of events. The state of payments is so fragmented. We have Paypal, and others such as Monitise and Grameen on the horizon, but nary a Bank to be seen as yet.

  3. You’ll know you have spent too much time watching The Wire when you start using “re-up” in relation to prepay products.
    e.g. “I just need to re-up my Oyster, see you on the platform”

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