American Credit Cards Are Most Popular In The World For Hacks, Fraud (Because Our Tech Stinks)

If it feels like we hear a whole lot of stories about retail data breaches here in the U.S., well, that’s because we do. Americans are super duper popular targets for card hacks and fraud, and it’s for one simple reason: our credit card security is bad and should feel bad.

Quartz reports this week on a new report from British-based international megabank Barclays, and it’s bad news for consumers on this side of the Atlantic.

American credit cards represent about a quarter — 24% — of all cards in use in the world. But when it comes to fraud, American cards represent nearly half — 47% — of cards that have been subject to fraud.

The main culprit is one we’ve covered many times before: in the U.S., where magnetic stripe technology is still the dominant way payment cards are accepted, we are vulnerable to software incursions and theft. Simply put, we are low-hanging fruit. Intruding into a system like Target or Home Depot and making off with usable data for tens of millions of payment cards is easy as pie, at least as compared to other nations.

And that is, of course, because other nations have long since switched to more secure, EMV (chip-using) credit and debit cards. The EMV system doesn’t completely eliminate the potential for card fraud, but it does make it much harder to do.

Worldwide, Barclays reports, chip-card adoption sits at about 43% — but that doesn’t include the U.S. In Western Europe, most nations have long since gone through the conversion process and the adoption rate sits at almost 82%. Since starting the transition to chip-and-PIN cards in 2003, the U.K. has seen an over 70% reduction in payment card fraud.

Here in the states we are finally on our way to joining the rest of the world, but it’s a slow process happening one bank and one retailer at a time, rather than something with a firm, government-imposed deadline. MasterCard and Visa will require merchants to upgrade to having chip-enabled payment systems by October of this year, but many banks are unlikely to make it before another two years into the future*.

One only wonders how many 50 million card megabreaches American consumers will see between now and then.

*Correction: This article originally incorrectly stated that the MasterCard/Visa liability shift for merchants to upgrade to chip-enabled card readers had changed to 2017. That date is still in 2015; it may take banks until 2017 to issue the cards.

Americans are, by far, hackers’ favorite credit-card fraud targets [Quartz]

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