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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

Take On Payments

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June 27, 2016


Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

Customer education encouraging safe payments practices has always been viewed by staff at the Retail Payments Risk Forum as a vital element in mitigating payments-related fraud. We have stressed this need time and time again in our posts as well as our numerous speaking engagements at payments-related conferences and events.

Financial institutions (FIs) have generally been identified as the group that should bear this responsibility as they own the account relationship, but with more intermediaries in the payments process, I think that others should also be involved. The advent of mobile banking and payments has introduced even more challenges since the financial institution doesn't get involved in the acquisition of the mobile device as that is normally handled by the mobile network sales representatives. My personal experience with these sales representatives is that once the device sale is done, they are more interested in selling me accessories or upgrading my data plan than they are teaching me about selecting and setting strong passwords or preventing malware and viruses from finding their way into my phone.

When I raise this issue with others, all too often I hear a pessimistic chorus that getting consumers to adopt strong security practices will always be a losing battle for FIs. They say that consumers will always choose convenience over security—that is, until they fall victim to fraud. And forget about any other player in the ecosystem taking on the education responsibility because if they have no liability for fraud losses, why direct funds to education when they could be deployed elsewhere?

The impact of fraud on a consumer's relationship with his or her financial institution has never been greater. We read every day about the increasing economic importance of the Gen Y or millennial segment. With an estimated 80 million people, they represent the largest segment of our country's bankable population. A late 2015 study by FICO on millennial banking habits revealed that 29 percent of respondents indicated that they would close all their accounts with a financial institution if one of those accounts experienced fraud. To make matters worse, one quarter of the survey participants indicated they would write a negative post on social media about their financial institution if they experienced a fraud incident.

So are financial institutions in a no-win situation? A ray of hope emerges from the same FICO study, which states that 41 percent of the millennials surveyed indicated that they recommended their FI to friends, colleagues, or family members after a positively handled fraud incident. Studies have consistently shown that payment security is a key concern of all customers, not just millennials. So although it may not seem fair that financial institutions have to shoulder most of the security education effort, the impact of not doing so could be significant. Perhaps it is time for a coordinated payments industry campaign to encourage consumers to adopt safer and more secure banking practices.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

June 27, 2016 in banks and banking, financial services, payments, risk | Permalink

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June 20, 2016


There's an App for That!

Few would question that mobile phones have had a considerable influence in our everyday activities. They provide a level of convenience and connectivity that also generates benefits to our personal safety and the security of our banking accounts and other assets. The Pew Research Center estimates that almost two-thirds of adults in the United States own a smartphone and 15 percent use them as their primary online access device either because they do not have broadband access at their home or have few other online options.

In recent blogs, I highlighted some key findings from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors' recently released Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016 report. The report includes a section of questions that probe how consumers use their mobile phones in financial decision making. Within the past year, 62 percent of mobile banking users with smartphones responded that they checked their balance before they made a large purchase. The power of that information is demonstrated in that for those who checked their balance or available credit, half didn't make a purchase as a result of having that information.

Forty-five percent of smartphone owners use their phone for comparison shopping at retail stores. Forty-one percent reported they use their phones to obtain product information while shopping at retail stores, and 28 percent use a barcode scanning application for price comparisons.

Though smartphone owners value the convenience phones bring to financial decision making, security and safety are primary concerns. A little more than half of the mobile banking users take advantage of the feature of receiving some type of alert from their financial institution. The most common alert cited was for a low balance, but 36 percent reported they also receive fraud alerts.

Later this year, a number of the Federal Reserve districts, including the Sixth District, will be conducting a survey of the financial institutions in their districts about the mobile banking and mobile payments services they offer. The Sixth District participated in this effort in 2014; you can find the results here. It will be interesting to see the changes that have taken place over the last two years, especially in light of the launch of the various mobile wallets, so stay tuned.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

June 20, 2016 in banks and banking, mobile banking, mobile payments | Permalink

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June 13, 2016


What Is GPR Feeding On? Part 2 of 2

In part 1, I shared several studies on the appetite for general-purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid cards. It turns out there is little public data covering the fraud portion of the industry. I look forward to results from the Federal Reserve's 2016 Payments Study, which added a number of questions related to GPR card fraud.

Last week, LexisNexis® released a fraud study titled Issuers Confront Application Fraud and Account Takeover in a Post-EMV U.S. The study reports that issuers annually lose $10.9 billion to card fraud overall, with 4 percent attributed to all types of prepaid cards (not just GPR), 25 percent to debit cards, and 71 percent to credit cards. The study examines what types of fraud schemes are responsible for losses, but the data is aggregated and not broken down by card type. We will look at these results and I will describe how fraudsters could use prepaid to perpetrate that type of fraud.

Lost/stolen cards: 28 percent of total card fraud

GPR card information can be lost or stolen in a variety of ways—as can happen with all payment card instruments. When the fraudster acquires the account numbers, he or she can then sell, clone, or counterfeit new cards to make fraudulent purchases. The most common schemes include:

  • Skimming magnetic stripes via compromised ATM or POS terminals
  • Cyberattacks/data breaches
  • Simply lost or stolen cards

"Lost or stolen" also include information obtained from extortion by coercive measures and deceptive marketing. Fraudsters trick consumers into loading funds on a prepaid card and then handing over the account information. Some prepaid issuers have included warnings about this type of crime on their packaging. Some recent schemes include:

  • Pretending to represent a creditor or utility and convincing victims they are overdue on bills and must immediately make a payment using a prepaid card
  • Money-winning schemes (I always win cruises) whereby a consumer must pay taxes on the winnings with a prepaid card

Account takeover: 20 percent

These schemes typically involve business bank accounts. However, a blog by Kreb’s on Security describes a well-known case involving prepaid. Cybercriminals allegedly breached a number of payment processors over a two-year period. They acquired account information and changed account balances and daily withdrawal limits. The criminals then used the breached payment card information to clone cards to use at ATMs all over the world and withdrew nearly $55 million in cash.

Application fraud: 20 percent

Ultimately, this scheme involves the criminal opening a GPR account under a stolen or false ID, using stolen funds to open the account. Schemes that fit into this category are:

  • Filing fraudulent tax returns and sending refunds to prepaid accounts. (I recently blogged on this.)
  • Buying prepaid cards with stolen or counterfeit cards, a growing scheme that essentially creates free money out of stolen funds

Counterfeit cards: 16 percent

Counterfeiting usually occurs in conjunction with other fraud schemes. Counterfeit cards (and even lost or stolen cards) can be sold, often at a discount to the purchaser, potentially making their way into the hands of law-abiding citizens through wholesale websites.

Maybe fraudsters stock their pantry with prepaid cards, but are these common schemes unique to GPR cards or prepaid accounts? Although it's easier to open a prepaid account with little direct human contact, couldn't we substitute debit card or credit line accounts in any of these fraud schemes? Every type of monetary instrument experiences fraud but the prepaid industry has worked diligently to address these common areas. The vast majority of prepaid customers are legitimate users that have chosen this type of product for economic or payment preference reasons.

Photo of Jessica Trundley By Jessica J. Trundley, AAP, payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

June 13, 2016 in cards, debit cards, fraud, identity theft | Permalink

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June 6, 2016


Mobile Security and Privacy

In an earlier post, I provided some of the top-line findings from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors' recently released Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2016 report. Safety and risk continue to be cited by consumers as significant barriers to their adoption of mobile banking and other new payment technology. Many consumers either don't believe that the mobile banking channel is safe or they don't understand the security features that are part of the mobile technology. The research effort probed these issues in greater detail to better understand consumer perspectives.

One of the first questions in this area asked how safe a person's personal information is when using mobile banking. As the table shows, while there has been steady positive movement over the last three years in getting many consumers to feel their personal information is safe, there remains a great challenge. A decrease of only two percentage points (42 percent in 2015 compared to a high of 44 percent in 2014) in those who believe their personal information is "somewhat unsafe" or "very unsafe" doesn't signify much advancement in the safety education efforts for these folks.

Q. How safe do you believe people's personal information is when they use mobile banking?

table-one

In a separate survey question, a slightly higher percentage of respondents (46 percent) believed that their personal information was "very unsafe" or "somewhat unsafe" when conducting a mobile point-of-service transaction at a store.

With 15 percent of the respondents indicating they "don't know," the survey illustrates the need for additional education about the security aspects of mobile banking and payment technology. The research showed that among those with mobile phones and bank accounts, mobile banking users had more confidence in the security of mobile banking transactions than non-users. Only 3 percent of mobile banking users thought that their personal information was "very unsafe" when they use mobile banking, compared to 28 percent for non-users.

When mobile phone users were probed about their specific security concerns about using their mobile phone for banking or payments, their most common response was that they were concerned about all of the listed security risks. For those who chose one specific reason, they most frequently cited fears about the phone being hacked or the data being intercepted, followed by concerns about their phone being lost or stolen.

On a positive note, consumers appear to be adopting more secure mobile phone practices. The percentage of smartphone users who password-protect their phone increased to 70 percent in 2015 from 61 percent in 2013. One-third of the smartphone owners were using antimalware software or applications to protect their phone, and a similar share used an app or service to help them locate, remotely access, erase, or disable their phone in the event it is lost or stolen.

Additionally, consumers are recognizing the need for improved authentication with their banking service provider. Seventy-four percent of smartphone owners indicated they either "strongly agree" or "agree" that they would be willing to undergo additional authentication steps when they were logging in to their mobile banking service.

Other important findings are contained in the research report, so be sure to give it a good read.

Photo of David Lott By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

June 6, 2016 in malware, mobile banking, mobile payments | Permalink

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