ECONOMY

Banks sharpening vigilance for expected rise in credit card fraud

Greek banks are gearing up to deal with an expected surge in credit card fraud during the Olympic Games. The phenomenon has already begun to acquire worrying proportions in the country, with initial estimates putting total 2003 losses at 14 million euros. The figure may seem small but it is the result of geometrical growth, notes Ilias Xirouhakis, head of risk management at Ethnocarta, the National Bank of Greece’s (NBG) own credit card. He says concern among banks is growing and NBG has set up a special team to deal with the phenomenon in concert with Greek police. Their efforts resulted in the arrest of 46 members of rackets of various sizes that were active in Central and Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries. Global credit card fraud is estimated at 3.5 billion euros, with about half of that occurring in Europe. The incidence is projected to surge 30-40 percent during the Olympic Games, helped by delays in the adoption in Greece of the so-called EMV chip technology which is banks’ main weapon for averting this type of fraud. This makes necessary increased vigilance on the part of both traders and consumers, who will have to follow instructions for use more faithfully than usual. Xirouhakis says such instructions have been printed in special leaflets which are being distributed, while special training programs are being conducted to raise awareness. Usurping PINs Credit card holders are urged to increase vigilance regarding the protection of their personal identification numbers (PIN) from prospecting fraudsters. The most widespread method for usurping PINs remains «shoulder surfing,» while a holder is using an ATM. Offers of help should be rejected outright, even those by people who may claim they are bank employees, and in no case should holders reveal their PIN. Other methods include microcameras surreptitiously installed on the exterior of ATMs which capture credit card details, the scanning of a card by a special tape in the slot, or an electronic card reader installed in the slot. According to Xirouhakis, banks have developed methods for identifying transactions carried out either with forged cards or by people who are not the legal holders, via systems monitoring and grading the risk in transactions. Such systems allow the online monitoring of transactions of particularly large value and those which, according to a scoring system, are considered risky. Plans during the Olympic Games period include supplying businesses with ultraviolet scanning equipment that recognizes card characteristics. Xirouhakis warns traders to be meticulous with procedural details as initial approval of a transaction by a bank does not necessarily mean ultimate payment if it is found that in a case of fraud proper procedures were not observed.