Business Tech

Fighting Fraud with Fingerprints

Credit card fraud racked up $8 billion in losses for U.S. banks, retailers, and consumers in 2015, double that globally. And the trend is only going upward. In 2014, 31.8 million U.S. consumers—triple the previous year—experienced a breach in their credit card security, resulting in replacement cards being issued at a cost of up to $12.75 per card for the issuing bank.

While EMV chip technology is being rolled out to help at point of sale terminals and ATMs, it is by no means a fail-safe. NASDAQ recently reported that “card not present” online transactions account for 45% of all fraudulent transactions, and by 2018 projections for non-point of sale transactions are expected to increase by more than double, keeping the door wide open for credit card fraud.

Enter biometrics. Chaya Hendrick, president and CEO of SmartMetric, Inc., has just unveiled a fully rechargeable fingerprint scanner for credit cards. With a simple swipe of the finger, the scanner authorizes the user in .25 of a second and allows the transaction to complete—and it works both for point of sale and online purchases.

“What we’ve done is shrunk a fingerprint scanner that people are familiar with in smartphones,” Hendrick said. “The readers on these phones are almost an inch thick in size. We’ve shrunk the electronics of that fingerprint scanner down into a size that can fit inside a credit card, as well as all of the electronics that go along with the scanner.”

The electronics of the SmartMetric biometric technology is close to one-quarter the thickness of a credit card, enabling banks to issue biometric cards without any change in existing ATM machines or point-of-sale readers. “It’s a phenomenal feat in the field of electronics,” Hendrick added.

Hendrick’s technology was nearly a decade in development, with all of the components being built from the ground up. “We are the first company in the world with a rechargeable battery that is connected to an EMV chip. It’s recharged every time it is inserted inside an ATM machine or point of sale machine.”

The fingerprint scanner activates the card to be used like a normal card. For online transactions, a special authorization code is transmitted to the retailer, letting them know the transaction has been validated biometrically.
“Adding a fingerprint scanner to a credit or debit card stops that card from ever being able to be used by somebody else,” Hendrick said. 

Hendrick’s goal is to provide technology to consumers who are concerned with the safety of their credit cards. Initially, biometric card technology will likely be offered by banks to their top cardholders for a modest fee.

“We, unfortunately, don’t see a lot of the banks funding it themselves,” Hendrick said, adding that after banks begin to realize the benefit of mitigating losses caused by fraud, they may decide to issue biometric cards to all cardholders at some point in the future. 

After surveying credit card holders in the United States that were employed earning $50,000 to $200,000 a year, the results showed 80 percent of respondents were extremely concerned with security of their credit cards, and 68 percent reported willingness to pay the one-time or monthly fee for the peace of mind the SmartMetrics fingerprint scanner would provide.

“Credit card fraud is part of the everyday concerns in the minds of the public,” Hedrick added. “There is an appetite by the consumer to actually protect themselves better with their credit cards. We are offering this as a technology to the banks that they then can offer to the consumer.”

While the technology wouldn’t prevent some types of fraud, such as ATM skimmer scams, it does protect the card from being used by an unauthorized user.

“It’s pretty much a failsafe,” Hendrick said, explaining that the only way to circumvent the biometric scan would be for thieves to engage in high tech CSI crime lab type activities of replicating fingerprints.

“The effort involved in that is far greater than running a number crunching program to get around your PIN number. I can run a program on my smartphone that can crunch anybody’s 4-digit PIN in less than 60 seconds,” Hendrick added. “This is definitely a better lock on the door.”

The first industry release of the card took place this month at the Payments Forum in Orlando. Hendrick reported the card was extremely well received and they are now in talks with several banks, both domestically and abroad, about how this card can be integrated into their card issuing programs.

Hendrick anticipates biometric credit and debit cards available to cardholders within the next 12 months.

“The credit card fraud issue is such huge issue. It’s a massive problem and it’s growing exponentially,” Hendrick said, adding that it’s not just a U.S. problem; it’s a global problem. Biometrics fingerprint technology is a better lock on the door for protecting consumers and mitigating losses.

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