Sunday, November 27, 2005

Debit card fraud: Canadian system better, but....

Over the past decade, American banks and credit unions have aggressively promoted usage of VISA or MasterCard "check cards" for debit purchases, even though VISA and MasterCard don't provide PIN-based security for their cards. Some good information about VISA/MasterCard "debit cards": Fatwallet Finance, U.S. PIRG, Clark Howard, Privacy Right, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and more.

By contrast, Canada's financial institutions developed the integrated nationwide Interac PIN-based debit system which is almost universally accessible across Canada.

Interac Direct Purchase seems more secure for consumers than the signature-based, non-real-time U.S. MasterCard/VISA debit system. However, a few stories have surfaced in Canada regarding organized fraud and criminal activities to "swipe" cardholders' PIN numbers. Here are a few links:
January 2005 CTV W-Five debit card fraud investigation
January 2003 CBC News "Debit Card Fraud Epidemic"
CIBC Advisory on Debit Card "Skimming"

Any thoughts from readers on this? My general sense is that the U.S. system is more vulnerable to fraudulent unauthorized transactions than the Canadian Interac debit system, but your thoughts are welcomed.