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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

September 16, 2019


Is There a Generation Gap in Cash Use?

How different are millennials from boomers in their reported payment habits, especially regarding their use of cash? New data from the Survey of Consumer Payment Choice, out this month, lets us look at age segments using the interactive charts accompanying the report.

For example, in 2018, consumers overall made 17 payments a month in cash. Drilling down, consumers aged 25 to 34—that is, millennials—used cash for 15 payments per month. Consumers 55 to 64—the boomers—used cash for 18 payments a month.

It's good to put these numbers in context. Here's a fact that surprised me: the younger group makes more total payments per month (73) than does the older group (67). That means that, as a percentage share of all payments, the difference by age is more pronounced:

  • Millennials: 21 percent of their payments in cash
  • Boomers: 27 percent of their payments in cash

The differences are similar when we look at paper checks, which the younger group used for 2 payments per month (3 percent of their payments) and the older group for 4 payments per month (6 percent).

Payment-method-use-by-age-range

You'll notice in the chart that payments instrument usage has been relatively stable for all the age groups since 2015.

Millennials' relatively lower use of cash doesn't mean, however, that the cashless society is going to arrive any time soon. In 2018, 85 of 100 consumers used cash in a typical month. And, in an analysis that incorporates a complete set of demographic variables plus income, differences by age could prove not so relevant. So, is there a generation gap in cash use? Yes. Does it mean the end of cash? No.

The charts at the website let you look at consumer payment choice by household income group and by the type of transaction. For example, you can examine how consumers' use of payment instruments is different for P2P payments than for bill payments. Check them out.

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

September 16, 2019 in cards, checks, currency, payments, payments study | Permalink

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July 8, 2019


A Tip for Summer Travel

Because I study payments, people like to brag to me about the ways they pay. "I never use cash." "I don't carry cash, even when I travel." "I buy a pack of gum with my phone." "I haven't seen a dollar bill in five years." Et cetera.

Lots of times, I get these comments while I'm traveling. Like me, the people I chat with are traveling. Handing over a bag to a skycap. Getting housekeeping services in a hotel. Eating a burger at the bar.

So please tell me, all you smartphone-carrying, thin-wallet sophisticates, how do you tip?

When I was a kid, hotel rooms had tiny paper envelopes "for the maid," my father said. Filling the envelope was the last step before loading kids and caboodle into the car. Before we got to drink Tang and eat powdered-sugar donuts, we thanked the housekeeper. Like Tang, those envelopes are becoming an artifact of the past, with the result that you might expect: declining tip income for service workers.

Plea to app developers: find a way to make it easy to tip on the go. There are plenty of tipping apps out there, and from my point of view, they work fine for relationship tips—for example, an app payment to a hair stylist. But what about the one-time tip? When I'm running for the subway I can't (or won't) stop to open or download an app and key in a dozen letters or numbers to thank Keytar Bear, a busker who performs here and there in Boston.

This brings up a key obstacle to apps for tipping: not only do I have to have the app, but the service person does also.

What could be easier to adopt and use than the $2 bill I keep in the outside pocket of my backpack for Carlos, the best guitar player in Harvard Square? I don't have to ask, "Do you accept this or that?" I don't scan or key. I just wave to Carlos, drop the cash, and keep moving.

To tip in cash, we need to carry cash. About 20 percent of respondents to the 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice reported that they carried no cash on any of their three reporting days. My Atlanta Fed colleague Oz Shy cites Rule #1 of tipping: "There are no rules about tipping." So I'll offer a guideline, not a rule: "Carry a bit of cash."

If you haven't found a cashless solution, go to a bank or credit union and get yourself a stack of $2 bills (Thomas Jefferson on the front, signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back, so appropriate in July). Stash them with your carryon bag.

It's summer travel season. In 40 states, the minimum wage requirements are lower for tipped workers. How do you thank the people who made your stay clean and comfortable? How do you tip?

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

July 8, 2019 in cards, credit cards | Permalink

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June 3, 2019


Hitting the Brakes on the Cashless Society

"Reverse ATMs" is a term I learned from reading my colleague Oz Shy's new working paper, "Cashless Stores and Cash Users." At venues that don't accept cash at the register, the patron puts cash into the reverse ATM and a loaded prepaid card comes out. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, for example, is one of the latest venues to adopt this practice.

Speaking of "reverse," I'm sure you know that some states and municipalities are seeking to reverse what may—or may not—be a trend toward brick-and-mortar retailers not accepting cash. Refusing to accept cash has been illegal in Massachusetts, where I live, since 1978. More recent developments:

  • Philadelphia will ban cashless stores beginning in July.
  • In March, New Jersey outlawed cashless restaurants and stores.
  • In May, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to require brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash.
  • Also in May, Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Cash Buyer Discrimination Act, which would require businesses all across the United States to accept cash.

These and other proposed laws are predicated on the idea that people without access to payment cards or digital payments are harmed when they cannot make purchases using their payment instrument of choice: cash. Oz's paper adds to the conversation by examining the choices consumers make at the point of sale, depending on their access to different ways to pay.

Using data from the 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, Oz found that consumers who own different mixes of payment instruments use cash with different intensity to make in-person purchases:

  • Diary respondents who own neither a credit card nor a nonprepaid debit card made almost 9 in 10 of their in-person payments with cash, on average. The median share of cash purchases was 100 percent.
  • Diary respondents who own at least one credit card and one nonprepaid debit card make about one-third of their in-person payments with cash, on average. The median share was 20 percent.

Oz goes on to calculate the cost to the cash payers who do not have credit or nonprepaid debit cards of switching from cash to a prepaid card. He finds that, all things being equal, for some consumers, using cash would have to cost twice as much as using a prepaid card for the cash users to be indifferent to switching. Oz's conclusion: "A complete transition to cashless stores imposes a measureable burden on consumers who do not have credit or [nonprepaid] debit cards." For perspective, 8.5 percent of respondents with household income below the U.S. median ($61,000) did not have a credit card or nonprepaid debit card in 2017, according to the diary.

As this research shows, cash is important to some consumers. The cashless society could be on a collision course with reality.

June 3, 2019 in cards, consumer protection, credit cards, currency | Permalink

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April 1, 2019


Contactless Cards: The Future King of Payments?

Just over two years ago, my colleague Doug King penned a post lamenting the lack of dual interface, or "contactless," chip payment cards in the United States. In addition to having the familiar embedded chip, a dual interface card contains a hidden antenna that allows the holder to tap the card on or wave it near the POS terminal. This is the same technology—near field communications (NFC)—that various pay wallets inside mobile devices use.

Doug is now doing his daily fitness runs with a bigger smile on his face as the indicators appear more and more promising that 2019 will be the year of the contactless card. Large issuers have been announcing plans to distribute dual interface cards either in mass reissues or as a cardholder's current card expires. Earlier this year, some of the global brand networks launched advertising campaigns to make customers aware of the convenience that contactless cards offer.

So why have U.S. issuers not moved on this idea before now? I think there have been several reasons. First, for the last several years, financial institutions have focused a lot of their resources on chip card migration. Contactless cards will create an additional expense for issuers and many of them wanted to let the market mature as it has done in a number of other countries. They were also concerned about the failure of contactless card programs that some of the large FIs introduced in the early 2000s—most merchants lacked terminals capable of handling the technology.

The EMV chip migration solved much of the merchant terminal acceptance problem as the vast majority of POS terminals upgraded to support EMV chips can also support contactless cards. (While a terminal may have the ability to support the technology, the merchant has to enable that support.) Visa claims that as of mid-2018, half of POS transactions in the United States were occurring at terminals that were contactless-enabled. Another factor favoring contactless transactions is the plan by major U.S. mass transit agencies to begin accepting contactless payment cards. According to the American Public Transportation Association's 2017 Ridership Report, there were 41 transit agencies in the United States with annual passenger trip volumes of over 20 million trips.

Given that consumer payments is largely a total sum environment, these developments have led me to ask myself and others what effect contactless cards will have on consumers' use of other payment forms—in particular, mobile payments. As my colleagues and I have written numerous times in this blog, mobile payments continue to struggle to obtain consumer adoption, despite earlier predictions that they would catch on quickly. There are some who believe that the convenience of ubiquity and fast transaction speed will favor the dual purpose card. Others think that the increased merchant acceptance of contactless will help push the mobile phone into becoming the primary payment form.

My personal perspective is that contactless cards will hinder the growth of in-person mobile payments. There are those who claim to leave their wallet at home and never their phone, and they will continue to be strong users of mobile payments. But the reality is that mobile payments are not accepted at all merchant locations, whereas payment cards are practically ubiquitous. While I am a frequent user of mobile payments, simply waving or tapping a card appeals to me. It's much more convenient than having to open the pay application on my phone, sign on, and then authorize the transaction.

Do you believe the adoption of contactless cards by consumers and merchants will be as successful as it was for EMV chip cards? And do you think that contactless cards will help or hinder the growth of mobile payments? Let us hear from you.

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

 

April 1, 2019 in card networks, cards, emerging payments, EMV, innovation, mobile payments | Permalink

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February 4, 2019


So, How Often Do You Dip?

Remember how s-l-o-w dipping your payment card seemed when you were shopping back in 2015? Molasses? Honey? The dregs of the ketchup bottle? These days, I'm dipping more—that is, inserting my card into a chip reader—and complaining about it less. (I don't have a contactless card, so tapping isn't yet an option for me.) I still think swiping is faster, but familiarity means that dipping bugs me less. And it's become rare for me to encounter a jerry-rigged chip reader with the insert slot blocked by cardboard or duct tape, forcing me to swipe instead.

Turns out my shopping experiences—dipping more—line up with new data released by the Federal Reserve Payments Study in December 2018. The study reports some information on how in-person general-purpose card payments were authenticated in the United States in 2017.

For the first time, more than half of these payments by value were chip-authenticated in 2017. In contrast, just three percent of general-purpose card payments used chips in 2015—hence, my lack of familiarity with dipping back in the day. Because contactless chip cards were in use before the EMV-based dipping method began to take off in 2015, these data are an approximation of the increasing use of dipping, not an exact measure.

The chart below is based on figure 8 in the Federal Reserve Payments Study: 2018 Annual Supplement; it shows the substantial uptake in chip authentication at the point of sale from 2016 to 2017. (Check out the supplement for more detail.)

By-value-shares-of-in-person-general-purpose

Note: Chip payments were a negligible fraction in 2012.
Source: Federal Reserve Payments Study data (available here and here)

By number, more than 40 percent of general-purpose card payments were chip-authenticated. By card type, credit card payments are most likely to be chip-authenticated and prepaid card payments are least likely to be chip-authenticated (see the chart below). Prepaid cards are less likely to be chip-enabled, certainly a factor in the low shares of chip authentication, in part because of a business decision not to go to the expense of adding chips to low-value cards.

Shares-of-in-person-general-purpose-card-chart

By this time next year, my view of dipping could have changed again. A large card issuer has announced that all its credit cards will be tap-to-pay (that is, contactless) by mid-2019, so it's possible that my dipping will go the way of swiping.

For me, it feels more natural and faster to insert a chip card than it did a year ago. How about you?

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

 

February 4, 2019 in authentication, cards, chip-and-pin, credit cards, debit cards, EMV, payments study | Permalink

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December 17, 2018


Card Fraud Values Often above Average

Recent data from the Federal Reserve Payments Study remind me of my first experience with payments fraud as a 20-something college grad freshly arrived in Boston. I left my wallet in a conference room, and someone lifted my credit card. I still remember the metaphorical punch to the stomach when the telephone operator at the card company asked, "Did you spend $850 at Filene's Basement?" $850! That was more than twice my rent, and far more than I could conceive of spending at Boston's bargain hunters' paradise in a year, let alone on a one-night spree.

Decades later, the first thing I do to check my card and bank statements is to scan the amounts and pay attention to anything in the three digits. For noticing high-value card fraud, this is a pretty good habit.

That's because, on average, fraudulent card payments are for greater dollar values than nonfraudulent card payments. In 2016, the average value of a fraudulent credit card payment was $128, almost 50 percent more than $88 for a nonfraudulent credit card payment. For debit cards, the relationship was more pronounced: $75 for the average fraudulent payment, about twice the $38 average nonfraudulent payment, according to the Federal Reserve Payments Study.

Chart-average-value-per-payment-2016

Even to the noncriminal mind, this relationship makes sense: get as much value from the card before the theft or other unauthorized use is discovered. For a legitimate user, budgetary constraints (like mine way back when) and other considerations can come into play.

Interestingly, this relationship does not hold for remote payments. In 2016, the average dollar values of remote debit card payments, fraudulent and nonfraudulent, were the same: $68. And the average value of a nonfraudulent remote credit card payment, $151, exceeded that of a fraudulent remote credit card payment, $130. Why the switcheroo?

A couple of possibilities: Remote card payments include online bill payments, which often are associated with a verified street address and are of high value. So that could be pushing the non-fraudulent remote payments toward a high value relative to the fraudulent remote payments. Another factor could be that fraud detection methods used by ecommerce sites look for values that could be outliers, so perpetrators avoid making purchases that would trigger detection—and thus average values for remote fraud are closer to average values for remote purchases generally. But this is speculation. What do you think?

The relationships described here are depicted in figures 21 and 28 of the recent report of the Federal Reserve Payments Study, Changes in the U.S. Payments Fraud Landscape from 2012 to 2016. You can explore other relationships among average values of payments, and more, on the payments study web page.

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

December 17, 2018 in cards, cybercrime, cybersecurity, data security, debit cards, mobile banking, mobile payments, payments study | Permalink

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November 13, 2018


In Payments, What I Say May Not Match What I Do

How do you like to pay your bills? Perhaps you schedule bills to pay automatically by bank account number so you don't miss a due date. Or maybe you would rather review a paper statement and then mail a check.

By number, U.S. consumers report paying 4 in 10 bills by electronic means—for example, by using their online banking bill pay function or providing a bank account number at a biller's website. By dollar value, the practice of using electronic transactions to pay bills is also prevalent: about half of bill payments by dollar value are made using online banking bill pay or bank account number payment. These are among findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, a survey of U.S. consumers released in September of this year.

Chart-one

Source: 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

The diary also asks respondents how they prefer to pay bills, so we can look at how consumers' stated preferences compare to what they actually do in specific situations. It turns out that 36 percent of consumers prefer online banking bill pay or bank account number payment, and about the same percentage prefer either a debit card or credit card.

Keep in mind that 38 percent of bill payments and 36 percent of consumers are not comparable. Actual behavior is measured in percentage shares of transactions. Preferences are measured in percentage shares of consumers (about 2,900 U.S. adults responded to this nationally representative survey).

We can see, however, the transactions for which consumers deviate from their stated preferences for bill payments. Of the bill payments recorded in the 2017 DCPC, about half were made using the consumers' preferred payment instrument.

Why do we consumers deviate from what we say we prefer? Think of your own payment choices. You might be constrained by what is feasible. For example, you might prefer to pay most bills with a paper check but for bills you pay online, it's impossible to use paper payment instruments. Your choice could be limited by what the payee prefers to accept. For example, your plumber might prefer payment by cash or check. Or you might deviate from your preferred method to save money. For example, your local municipality might put a surcharge on card payments, so paying with your bank account number is less costly. Or, for larger bills, you might use a credit card to earn points.

To see more about how consumers adjust our payment choices given the situation, take a look at the interactive charts detailing payment choice by dollar value, payment type, and remote or in-person payments, as reported in the 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice.

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

 

November 13, 2018 in cards, payments study | Permalink

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October 29, 2018


Remote Card Fraud: A Growing Concern

Where's the money in card payments? Despite all we hear about e-commerce and other kinds of remote payments, in-person payments remain strong. The total dollar value of in-person card payments exceeded the total dollar value of remote payments in both 2015 and 2016. In-person payments were 56 percent of all card payments by value in 2016, and 58 percent in 2015. By number, the race is not even close: 78 percent of card payments were in person in 2016.

Graph-one

Looking at change from 2015 to 2016, however, another story could be emerging. When we consider the growth in the value of card payments, remote payments grew by 11 percent from 2015 to 2016, compared to about 3 percent growth by value for in-person card payments. By number, in-person card payments increased 5 percent and remote by 17 percent.

It wasn't only remote payments that grew from 2015 to 2016—so did remote fraud. In fact, it grew faster than remote payments did overall. Remote fraud by value grew more than three times faster than the value of remote payments—35 percent compared to 11 percent. By number, remote fraud grew about twice as fast—32 percent compared to 17 percent.

In contrast to the mix of remote and in-person card payments overall, where in-person payments still are the majority, fraudulent remote card payments were more than half of all fraudulent card payments by both value and number in 2016.

Graph-two

These data suggest that remote card payments fraud is likely to be of increasing concern for the U.S. payments system going forward. Additional data are included in the report at www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/fr-payments-study.htm.

To learn more about payments fraud, you can sign up for the Talk About Payments webinar on November 1 at 11 a.m. (ET). This webinar is open to the public but you must register in advance to participate.

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

 

 

October 29, 2018 in cards, consumer fraud, debit cards, fraud, identity theft, mobile payments, online retail, payments study | Permalink

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October 22, 2018


Three Views of Noncash Payments Fraud

Despite what we might gather from the headlines, payments fraud is a small fraction of the value of all payments.In 2015, by value, it was only about 1/200 of 1 percent of noncash payment transactions. The pie chart shows what a tiny slice of the pie that payments fraud is.

Image-one-sm

This view of the value of payments fraud in 2015 is one of three views that today's post will offer, using data from a recently released payments fraud report.

The report, based on data from the Federal Reserve Payments Study, quantifies noncash payments fraud by value and number in 2012 and 2015 and provides information that can help inform efforts to prevent and detect payments fraud. Data include detail on different payment instruments and transaction types.

Fraud value is defined in the report to be the value of unauthorized third-party payments that were cleared and settled, before any chargebacks, returns, or recoveries. It does not include the costs of any prevention, detection, or remediation methods. The report covers noncash payments used for everyday consumer and business transactions, including automated clearinghouse (ACH), check, and card payments. (Wires are excluded.)

Here's the next view of payments fraud by value: most payments fraud is by card. Slightly more than three-quarters of noncash payments fraud by value are credit card, debit card (prepaid and non-prepaid), and ATM withdrawal fraud; almost half is credit card fraud. The second chart shows that by value, ACH fraud is 14 percent of noncash payments fraud and check fraud is 8.6 percent.

Image-two-sm

Finally, fraud rates by value for cards increased from 2012 to 2015 while fraud rates for check payments decreased and fraud rates for ACH stayed flat. That rate increase for cards means that the value of fraudulent card payments grew faster than the dollar-value growth overall, which is concerning. Indeed, card fraud by value grew more than three times faster than the growth in card payments and ATM withdrawals by value—64 percent compared to 21 percent. ACH fraud grew more in line with the growth rate in ACH payments, with fraud by value increasing 11 percent compared to a 13 percent increase in the value of total ACH payments.

Image-three-sm
You can find additional data in the report at https://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/fr-payments-study.htm.

To learn more about the payments fraud report, join our next Talk About Payments webinar on November 1 at 11 a.m. (ET). The webinar is open to the public but you must register in advance to participate. (Registration is free.) Once registered, you will receive a confirmation email with login and call-in information. Also, be sure to check back next Monday for another Take On Payments post about the report.

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

 

October 22, 2018 in cards, consumer fraud, cybercrime, cybersecurity, debit cards, payments study | Permalink

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October 15, 2018


An Ounce of Prevention

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and after attending late September's FinovateFall 2018 Conference in New York City, I find this aphorism as relevant today as it was in 1735. The conference showcased 80 demonstrations of leading-edge financial technology over two days with presenters representing five continents. Demos touched on a wide range of technologies and solutions, including game-based marketing and financial education; "lifestyle" mobile banking applications that integrate social media, news, e-commerce, and financial management to deliver personalized recommendations; lending and home buying; and integration with intelligent personal assistants. What stood out to me most were the many possible technologies offered to authenticate users, cards, and mobile transactions, each with the potential to prevent payments fraud.

As card payments continue to dominate consumer transactions in the United States, usage is increasing in other countries, and remote purchases gather steam, the demand for fast, reliable identity and payment authentication has also grown. So has the even greater demand from consumers for frictionless payments. But how does technology reward the good guys, keep out the bad ones, and prevent cart abandonment or consumer frustration? Here are just a few examples of how some of the fintech companies at the conference propose to satisfy these competing priorities.

SMS—While one company proclaimed that SMS was designed for teenagers and never intended for use as a secure messaging means, another proposed a three-factor authentication method that combined the use of a PIN, Bluetooth communication, and facial recognition via SMS sent to account holders to identify a possible fraud event in real time. Enhancing this technology was artificial intelligence that analyzes facial characteristics such as smiling or frowning.

Biometrics—Developers demonstrated numerous biometrics options, including those using unique, multifactor, non-gesture-based biometric characteristics such as the speed and pressure we use to swipe our mobile devices. Also demonstrated was the process of linking facial recognition to cards for both in-person and e-commerce purchases, as well as "liveness" tests that access the mobile phone's gyroscope to detect slight physical movements not present when a bot is involved. Another liveness test demonstrated was one in which people use their mobile devices to shoot videos of themselves reciting a number or performing randomized movements. Video content is then checked against identity verification documents, such as driver's license photos, that account holders used at setup. The developers noted that using video for liveness testing helps prevent fraudsters from using stolen photos or IDs in the authentication process.

Passwords—Some developers declared that behavioral biometrics would bring about the death of the password, and others offered services that search the corners of the dark web for compromised credentials. Companies presented solutions including a single, unique identification across all platforms and single-use passwords generated automatically at each login. One of the most interesting password technologies displayed involved the use of colors, emojis, numbers, and logos. This password system, which could be as short as four characters, uses a behind-the-scenes "end code," where the definition of individual password characters is unique to each company employing the technology, rendering the password useless in the event of a data breach.

As I sat in the audience fascinated by so many of the demos, I wished I could go to my app store to download and use some of these technologies right away; the perceived security and convenience, combined with ease of use, tugged at the early adopter in me. Alas, most are white-labeled solutions to be deployed by financial institutions, card networks, and merchant acquirers rather than offered for direct consumer use. But I am buoyed by the fact that so many solutions are abiding by the words of Ben Franklin and seek to apply an ounce of prevention.

Photo of Ian Perry-Okara  By Nancy Donahue, project manager in the Retail Payments Risk Forum  at the Atlanta Fed

 

October 15, 2018 in biometrics, cards, cybersecurity, emerging payments, fintech, innovation | Permalink

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