By Currency Research

In promoting the use of their cards, MasterCard and Visa claim that credit cards are “safer” than cash. To convince both retailers and consumers of the dangers of cash, these companies regularly produce stories of robbery and loss of cash via transport and handling. However, the recent attack on point-of- sale terminals at Target Stores, for example, dispels this myth. 79 Furthermore, the current trend of banks and companies issuing non-liability statements in their terms and conditions, which render customers using enhanced security cards (e.g., chip-and-pin) fully liable for any losses, pushes the burden of fraud responsibility directly over to the consumer. Card fraud is exponentially higher than counterfeiting with the risk increasingly being passed to the consumer. At the same time, costs to protect against credit card fraud are passed to the retailer and then on to the consumer. Currency Research estimates that “chip and pin” will cost US retailers in excess of one billion dollars to fully implement.

As the article below points out, retailers and consumers must be vigilant against cyber-thievery and the theft of personal data when using payment cards:

The FBI has issued a warning to US shops telling them to beef up defences against cyber-thieves.

The agency included its warning in a confidential report to large retailers that was obtained by Reuters.

In particular, said the FBI, shops need to look for the type of malware used to steal millions of credit card details from shoppers at retailer Target.

The FBI said it had seen about 20 cases in the last year where data was stolen using the same type of malicious code.

That code has been inserted on to credit and debit card swiping-machines, cash registers and other point-of-sale (POS) equipment.

“We believe POS malware crime will continue to grow over the near term, despite law enforcement and security firms’ actions to mitigate it,” read the FBI report.

The thieves are believed to have got away with complete details for 40 million cards and stolen personal data on about 70 million customers.

Recent arrests suggest the data stolen from Target is already being used to create counterfeit cards. In mid-January two people were arrested at the Texas-Mexico border with 96 fake cards later identified as being from the huge cache stolen from Target. 80

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) website provides facts to the general public about identity fraud and the misuse of debit card or credit card data, noting that payment card fraud is the most commonly reported incident:


• Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

• Technology, mainly the Internet, facilitates more elaborate schemes, such as skimming, phishing, and hacking as criminals gather profiles of potential victims. Computer spywares and viruses, designed to help thieves acquire personal information, are an emerging trend.

• Victims of identity theft or fraud can experience financial loss and difficulty obtaining credit or restoring their “good name”.

• In 2009, the CACF received identity fraud reports from 11,095 Canadian victims, totaling a loss of more than 10 million dollars. Payment card fraud was the most commonly reported incident, and yet, many instances of identity theft and fraud go unreported. 81

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention’s economic crime statistics show a similar trend in payment card fraud:


Reported cases of fraud continued to rise in 2010 by 5 percent compared with 2009. Computer fraud is a large part of the increase, which is connected to police efforts to combat internet and credit-card fraud. 82

The impact points cited below, based on the 2012 ACI Annual Fraud Survey, show that 27% of cardholders in 17 different countries have experienced fraud in the past five years, with 14% experiencing multiple frauds. 83 Noteworthy is the statistic that 49% of the 2012 respondents cited reclaiming their financial identity as the biggest fear related to fraud. Moreover, the report finds that financial fraud is “rapidly growing around the world” and has become more organized and sophisticated in recent years.


• This Impact Report, based on a Q3 2012 ACI Worldwide study of 5,223 consumers in 17 countries, provides an overview of respondents’ attitudes toward various types of financial fraud and discusses the actions they may take subsequent to a fraud experience. Where applicable, it also compares these results with those from a similar 2011 ACI survey.

• Of all cardholders—debit, credit and prepaid—27% have experienced card fraud in the past five years.

• In 2012, 14% of debit and credit card holders cite having experienced fraud multiple times during the past five years; this is compared to 6% in 2011, a statistically significant increase.

• After experiencing card fraud, 56% of cardholders use cash or an alternate form of payment instead of a debit or credit card.

• Of cardholders who received replacement cards as a result of a data breach or fraudulent activity in the past year, 46% used the new card less than the original.

• Attrition rates after experiencing card fraud average 21% among cardholders in the 17 countries surveyed.

• Twenty-six percent of 2011 respondents stated that their biggest fear related to fraud was reclaiming their financial identity if they became victims of identity theft; in 2012, 49% of respondents state they are “very concerned” about this issue.

• Financial fraud is growing rapidly throughout the world and has become much more organized and sophisticated in recent years. Eighty-one percent of respondents think that government and law enforcement do only an “average” or “below average” job of fighting card or account fraud.

• Debit and credit card fraud rates have remained stable over the past two years, at 25% in 2011 and 26% in 2012. 84

Lastly, the De La Rue “Cash is King” article mentioned above highlights the many advantages of cash over cards, including the fact cash is less open to fraud:


Cash is popular, convenient and trusted to serve as a universally-accepted method of payment for a number of reasons:

• Cash is less open to fraud: In 2005, the Bank of England took out of circulation around 505,000 counterfeit banknotes with a total face value of just over £10 million. In comparison, total card fraud in the UK reached almost £440 million in the same year.

A 2006 pan-European consumer survey reveals that 11% of adults polled across eight key European countries have had their card details stolen or used without their permission. This equates to around 22.8 million people, or the combined populations of Belgium and Sweden. 85

Earlier in this report we gathered evidence in order to argue that cash does not cause crime, nor is cash any less safe than cards. In many studies by central banks the average cash holding by an individual at any one time, regardless of currency, is between $50 USD and $100 USD. If an individual loses his or her cash, the loss is limited to the amount lost. If a person loses their financial identity, the losses in time and money are potentially much greater.

This article has been posted with permission from Currency Research and is excerpted from The Case for Cash Part 1: Myths Dispelled. To request a copy of the full report or to learn more about Currency Research, please click here


Myth: Credit cards are “safer” than cash