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Doing Your Part to Stop Identity Theft

By Michael W. English

North Las Vegas resident Victor Dunn was surprised when he received a bill from the local newspaper for a subscription he doesn't have; he was even more surprised when his credit card company called about some hefty charges.

Dunn's case of identity theft is amazing not only because he is the Captain of the Las Vegas Police Department, but also because he is part of a newly formed task force made up of local police and federal Secret Service agents chartered to stop identity theft.

Per Mr. Dunn, this task force has arrested 43 criminals who have stolen and created fake ID's in the Las Vegas area, but thousands still elude them.

In another case, three South Florida residents arrested for participating in a credit card skimming ring pleaded innocent to the charges in court. The Florida State Attorney's Office stated that credit card numbers were "skimmed" at businesses, restaurants and gas stations in the Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties of Florida.

When crooks skim credit card account numbers, they use a special device to swipe or capture data from a customer's card that is stored on the magnetic stripe.

The device is often small enough for employees to hide in their apron or pocket. With possession of this information, they can make fake cards, which are often sold several times over and used to make fraudulent purchases.

Skimming can occur anytime a credit card holder loses sight of his or her credit card, and employees of the retail location most often perpetrate it.

The stolen credit card numbers in the South Florida case were used to make fake cards for routine daily purchases by ring members and to purchase thousands of gallons of gasoline, which were later sold by ring members acting as a distributorship.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recognized the significance of this growing category of crime. In a survey report the agency released in September 2003, it found that 9.9 million Americans had discovered that personal information had been misused in the past year; more than 27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years.

Identity theft is the top fraud complaint reported by consumers, accounting for 43% of the complaints lodged in the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database.

The number of fraud complaints jumped from 220,000 in 2001 to 380,000 in 2002, with the dollar loss consumers attributed to the fraud they reported growing from $160 million in 2001 to $343 million in 2002.

Retailers and restaurants are fearful of having their establishments serve as the source of identity theft and card skimming, especially if word gets out that someone on their staff is suspected of stealing customers' credit card information.

One way you can assist these merchants in limiting the risk from this type of criminal activity is to help them install customer-convenient payment solutions, such as Ingenico's i7770 short-range wireless and portable terminal. These types of solutions enable the wait staff to bring the terminal to the customer and complete the transaction directly in front of the customer.

Portable payment devices operate similarly to a countertop terminal, offering card swipe, authorization, receipt printing and transaction batching capabilities, all completed in front of the customer.

The transaction is sent from the portable terminal to the base using communications methods such as Bluetooth and WiFi.

The other benefits of these customer-convenient payment solutions for retailer or restaurants are:

  • With portable wireless terminals it takes fewer steps for the wait staff or sales clerk to complete a transaction, making payment finalization faster and more efficient.
  • When using portable wireless terminals, servers and employees have more time available to serve customers, creating an even better reputation for the business.
  • When a customer is satisfied, they tend to return, passing a favorable word onto friends and family about the establishment, thereby increasing the number of new patrons and growing revenue.
  • Customer-convenient payment, where the payment terminal is brought to the customer's table, enables a restaurant to turn tables faster while improving customer service and increasing restaurant revenue.

There is great opportunity available to you to sell merchants solutions that increase establishment profitability while reducing the risk of fraud and decreasing their cost of payment.

Michael W. English is Ingenico's Director of Marketing and Communications. E-mail him at .

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