The Targeting of Target

TargetAccording to the WSJ yesterday, Target, the multifaceted retailer invested millions in trying to get shoppers using their stores to convert to chips in their cards. It was Target’s hope that other retailers would support this effort.  This was 2001. The program didn’t take hold and they ditched the program three years later.

The irony now is Target has now become the victim (and millions of customers) of a global hacking effort that has resulted in the compromise of thousands perhaps millions of check cards. According to the same WSJ piece, some compromised plastic has already been found on people who obviously were receiving fraudulent cards.

When  I was in Canada last year, the chip cards rule. I could not purchase in many places because my U.S. issued cards lacked a chip. In addition, most of the restaurants where I ate brought the card machine to the table to run the card and would not (as is customary in the U.S.) leave the area with my card. It was a  much more stringent approach to plastic/electronic transactions.

In one store, a merchant laughed when I told him that the U.S. didn’t really use chips in cards much. It was a learning experience for me.

Do you want to know how late the U.S. is on this one? Check the science:

“Magnetic stripes have been used on plastic since the 1970s. Hackers find it increasingly easy to copy the data on them because the information in the magnetic stripe doesn’t change, and criminals can easily produce fake cards, because the technology is readily available.

Chip cards, on the other hand, take the cardholder information and turn it into a unique code for each transaction. They also often require additional authentication, such a personal identification number, or PIN. Payment and security experts say the technology wouldn’t have prevented the attack at Target, but it would have made it more difficult for thieves to counterfeit the cards and make fraudulent purchases.”

This one is a no brainer. At least that is what I think.  The rest of the world has moved to secure chip system and we don’t move. Why? The UK’s fraud is way down since they went to chips.  Duh?  I am laughing now.  Que up the James Brown track: “Living in America…”


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