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Please, protect my money and its travels.

Keep my money safe
Keep my money safe
Microsoft Clip Art

In the early days of banking, bank buildings were large, ornate and fortress like. Customers were assured their money would be sheltered and protected in such imposing facilities. An implicit message; no bank robber would be able break into this vault. Times have changed and in today’s world, in addition to keeping depositor’s money safe, moving money safely is just as important.

For those of us who grew up in a pre-cellphone world, the thought of having a small portable wireless phone was a Flash Gordon concept. (For those under 50; Flash Gordon…think Luke Skywalker in tights.) To think that you could use that cell phone for your banking, i.e. making deposits, checking balances and paying bills, wow, how cool, welcome to the future. Today, banking customers want the convenience of using cellphones for conducting banking transactions and know assuredly those transactions are safe and secure. Just as the prolific bank robber Willie Sutton allegedly responded, when asked why he robbed banks, “…because that’s where the money is”, today's bank robber likely would say he/she trolls the internet, because that is where today's money is. Incumbent upon all banks is the need to protect all electronic portals from compromise by anyone other than the authorized user. One need look no further than the recent breach of Target customer’s credit and debit card information. “…70 million credit card numbers from Target customers between Thanksgiving and Christmas”, according to Business Insider, Jim Edwards,
Clearly, while the perpetrators of these criminal acts fall into the same morally bankrupt category as Willie Sutton, they are, on average, a whole lot smarter. For that reason, the security systems in place must continually evolve to stay ahead of the bad guys insuring the protection of each customer. Big banks typically have their own technology staff to write proprietary code, programs and tweak as needed. Community banks in the Bay Area are usually late adopters of new technologies to make certain that when they offer a new product or service, the bugs have been worked out and the technology is secure. Community banks typically don’t have the deep pockets to afford an army of code writers and programmers; they rely on third party vendors to provide the technology, updates and fixes as needed. California State Senator Jerry Hill has authored Senate Bill 1351, to require “...the issuance and acceptance of credit and debit cards equipped with microchips capable of storing a personal identification number (PIN)…”, from the California Senate Banking & Financial Institutions Committee. This type of technology has been in use around the world, though not here in the US, and has been successful in reducing hacker penetration and fraud. While hard to quantify, in Europe, where the technology has been in use for many years, speculation suggests a 70% reduction in fraud has been realized. Why hasn’t the technology been adopted here in the US? Seems that the big banks, credit card companies and retailers have been squabbling over who will pay for the new technology. This standoff partially explains why the US has been targeted so much; easy pickings. Kudos to Senator Hill in his efforts to pressure these parties to work together to develop a solution. If they don’t, his bill will force a legislative solution to protect consumers. As technology evolves, we can all benefit from advances that simplify our lives. That said, if controls and security are not bulletproof, our lives can become a nightmare of identity theft, fraud and thievery.