Card comfort

Tempted as we may be to cut them up, credit cards are as an integral part of modern living as is crap TV. This has been so for many years. Each year, trillions of dollars in mostly small transactions circulate worldwide via credit cards.

It's when mature credit card technology meets online security practices that fraud problems loom. It's too easy to ignore or dismiss as media beat-ups the semi-regular reports from around the world (and of major 'incidents' here) of both nondescript e-tailer and major sites being hacked and customer information compromised. I think the little news that leaks out about such 'incidents' is only a snippet of what's really happening.

Late last year, 13 banks here and in New Zealand entered a Visa International-initiated pilot program intended to enable banks and retailers to exchange digital certificates to authenticate card holders' identities using SSL (secure sockets layer) technology. The deadline to adopt the Visa Authenticated Payment for all Visa-acquiring banks is April 2003.

This initiative, coupled with various smartcard efforts from American Express and MasterCard, represents a technical fix. Who knows if it's enough in a world of increasingly sophisticated hackers.

Meanwhile, smart online shoppers would be casting a wary eye over their transaction statements and avoiding sites that don't post clear privacy and security policies and contact information (with street address and working phone number).

Ubiquitous mobile telephony is an innovation that has conspired to have most people spending more on their personal comms costs - despite plummeting landline costs. Now here's a service with potential to drive some sales reps mad: Personal Call Recovery System. Developed about two years ago as an Internet-based MobileFleet management service, the phone bill is fed in electronically and scanned for 'exceptions' or to distinguish between business and residential numbers. This is good for savings upwards of $250,000 at a large company with 2500 mobiles, claims the vendor. And this at a time when most sales commissions are on the lean side. Sounds a little mean, but hell, if mobile comms costs fall in your domain - why not?

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