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Card security: PIN proliferation

13th May 2005
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Research shows that the public are struggling to remember PIN numbers.

Over the last year the UK cards industry has moved towards chip and PIN. However, many consumers are now complaining of 'PIN blindness' and are resorting to potentially lax measures to remember their codes. While this may not affect chip and PIN's aim of reducing counterfeit card fraud, it does raise the specter of more conventional deception returning.

Recent research has shown that many of the UK's adults are suffering from 'PIN blindness'. A survey of 1,000 adults conducted by financial services communications company Teamspirit found that only six in ten people could remember two passwords or access codes unprompted. Few people could remember more than two codes. The research also showed that 8% of respondents kept their payment card PINs in their wallets with their cards.

This research comes on the back of the introduction of chip & PIN into the UK cards market. The new system is part of an international initiative known as EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) that aims to reduce counterfeit fraud by replacing magnetic stripe cards with more secure chip based cards that are harder to copy.

The UK has embraced the initiative more eagerly than most countries, not least because its overall fraud rates were rocketing and counterfeit fraud accounted for a significant proportion of the total figure. Furthermore, chip and PIN also had the benefit of making lost and stolen fraud harder to commit.

That so many consumers complain of so-called 'PIN blindness' is no surprise and was certainly expected by many in the card industry. Indeed, the whole system of chip and PIN is new to consumers and one that they will have to become accustomed to over time - and in a country where multiple cardholding is the norm, more time may be needed than elsewhere.

To some extent, PIN proliferation should not be too much of a problem for the industry. Certainly, issuers of cards that consumers use as their default option, stand to benefit from increased usage rates.

Yet rather more worrying is the possibility that consumers will increasingly either note down their PINs or to use the same PIN for a variety of cards, thereby negating some of the system's benefits. As counterfeit fraud becomes harder to commit, fraudsters will seek any means they can to commit fraud in other ways and this could be one more loophole for them to exploit.

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