Can tokens beat identity thieves?


by Jesse Jones / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @getjesse

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 11:21 PM

Shopping with a debit or credit card is less secure than it used to be, thanks to hackers stealing your information from businesses and retailers.

Ann Annis discovered $63,000 missing from her bank account after fraudsters copied her husband's bank card number and went shopping at a Target in Brooklyn, New York.

She's still shocked at how easy it was for the thieves, "I'm just amazed you can spend that much one day in a store and not have any questions about it," Ms. Annis said.

But a new technology could stop this from happening. It's called tokenization and it changes how your financial information is shared.

Christopher Budd, a computer security expert with Trend Micro, says tokenization allows purchases to happen without ever giving retailers your bank or credit card information.

"It is basically taking your credit card number, doing some math magic on it that only the token, tokenization companies can do and coming back with a new transformed number which is what the merchant will actually store," Budd said.

Budd told me it would be very difficult for hackers to crack the special code. And the token can only be used once and has an expiration date. Once it's used, only the bank and payment processor can access your account information.

Budd also said the technology would have saved a few hacked companies lots of troubles,"If Target or Neiman Marcus would have had this in place, they would not have had the problems that they did."

Budd says the technology is attractive because the transition is all virtual - unlike the European Chip and Pin system.

That means banks won't have to spend money on upgrading their card readers or issuing new cards for customers.

As for Ann, she was able to work with her bank to get her money back. But not everyone is so lucky. So until the banks get a new system in place it's up to you to protect yourself. Watch your bank accounts,use your credit card when you can. Or you can play it extra safe and only pay in cash.