senior vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Next time you use your credit card to purchase something at the local drug store or supermarket, the person behind the counter will be able to help protect your identity, Visa USA says.

Visa USA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a nationwide campaign this week to improve data security, saying consumer identity theft can be reduced by a focus on the point of sale.

The announcement was made the day after Visa formally ended its relationship with the payment-processing company CardSystems Solutions, which reported a security breach last month that put account information of 40 million cardholders at risk for fraud.

Identity fraud doesn’t always involve hackers breaking into a computer system. According to a 2005 survey by Javelin Strategies and the Better Business Bureau, 48 percent of identity theft victims reported that employees, friends, acquaintances, relatives, or their own carelessness was to blame. Less than 12 percent of identity theft occurrences were a result of computer-related crimes. …data protection is a shared responsibility.Rolf Lundberg Jr.>Text “At Visa, fighting fraud and protecting cardholders has always been one of our highest priorities,” says Steve Ruwe, executive vice president, operations and risk management, Visa USA. To improve security across the board, he adds, Visa has a responsibility to go directly to merchants to understand the challenges they deal with on a daily basis.

“Today, data protection is a shared responsibility,” says Rolf Lundberg Jr., senior vice president, congressional and public affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “That means that all businesses and their partners must be smart and continually vigilant about how they handle and store customer information.”

According to Visa and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, businesses should address four areas to improve the security of sensitive data:

— Storage: What kind of processing software or processor does the business use? What kind of data is collected and how is it stored? If purchase information is not stored electronically, sales receipts that contain account numbers should be protected.

— Laws and standards: Does the business understand both the law and payment-industry requirements for protecting cardholder information? Customers should do business only with merchants that are compliant.

— Checkout: Businesses should train employees to stop skimming and to look for the important security features of credit cards.

— Access: Businesses should limit employee access to cardholder information.

“Preventing a problem is more effective than handling complaints after the fact,” says Steve Cole, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau. “We see this effort as a terrific opportunity to remind and to reinforce the basics of information security to our members and other small businesses — information that is needed now more than ever.”

Nationwide tour

Beginning next month, Visa and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will take their tips on the road, sponsoring a series of educational seminars. During these meetings, they expect to report what steps the industry has already taken and to introduce measures that businesses both large and small can implement to protect consumers’ personal financial information. For anyone who is interested but can’t attend a seminar, the Chamber has business security information online.

Related links:

Fears growing over identity theft

Indian call centre workers charged with Citibank fraud

Ontario helps businesses battle identity theft

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