Rising credit card fraud


A recent spate of credit card fraud on the Mount Holyoke College campus has brought the issue to the forefront for both students and Campus Police.

"Hacking is a big problem all over the world, and when they find a way in, hackers can do havoc," said Barbara Arrighi, the Deputy Chief of Campus Police at Mount Holyoke. Mount Holyoke's Campus Police receives reports from students of credit card fraud in banks both foreign and domestic, though Arrighi noted that there has been a spike lately in reports of credit card fraud from students using foreign banks. 

Credit cards emerged and rose to prominence in the 1950s, marking a significant technological development in the way money is exchanged. However, credit cards were accompanied by the introduction of a new field of criminal activity, that of credit card fraud. 

According to Nasdaq, approximately 31.8 million U.S. consumers had their credit cards breached in 2014, marking a three fold increase from the number of U.S. consumers who had their credit cards breached in 2013. 

The United States has experienced high levels of credit card fraud compared to other countries, a fact often attributed to the slow introduction of EMV cards in the United States. EMV stands for EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa, the three companies that collaborated to create the EMV card. EMV cards are also known as chip cards, and have become more widely implemented in the United States in the last two years, partly as a response to numerous security breaches that exposed personal information on consumers to hackers (a Target security breach, for example, in November and December of 2013 was one of the worst in U.S. history, resulting in the theft of 40 million Target customers' credit and debit card information). 

Chip cards carry computer chips that authenticate transactions more securely than swipe cards. According to Nasdaq, when the U.K. implemented the EMV card on a large scale, counterfeit fraud decreased by 70 percent between 2005 and 2013. While counterfeit fraud will likely drop in the United States as a result of the introduction of the EMV card, many experts expect that other types of fraud, particularly online fraud, will swell in response. 

To reduce their risk for credit card fraud, Arrighi recommends that students change their passwords regularly and ensure that their passwords are difficult to guess and include a variety of letters, numbers and symbols. "You never want to use one that's easy, like your own name or your pet's name," she cautioned. 

In the event that someone is a victim of credit card fraud, Arrighi urged the individual to report the fraud to the police and credit card company immediately, so as to stop activity on the card as soon as possible. "If the credit card company is going to pay you back for the losses, you have to report it to the police,"she added. 

"We should be able to live in a world where you can trust the person you're dealing with, but that's not the way it is. It's just not, and we have to accept that and have a little bit of a jaundiced view of the way the world runs," said Arrighi. 

Arrighi also noted that an individual should be careful when using credit cards in public, making sure never to flash the card around. Additionally, individuals should closely protect their pin numbers and passwords. 

Arrighi said, "As soon as someone feels like anything is wrong, shut it down. Whether it's a debit card, a credit card, whatever it is, shut it down immediately."