Consumers warned about new smart card scams

Advanced technology in credit and debit cards are helping in the fight against identity theft and consumer fraud, but local experts caution that even the new smart cards are not completely foolproof.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection warned consumers Wednesday to beware of suspicious emails or text messages that may ask for their personal identity or account information using recent changes to smart chip credit and debit card accounts as a trap. The federal government required retailers to adopt over a billion Europay, MasterCard and Visa — or EMV — smart chip enabled cards by Oct. 1 in an effort to combat fraud.

The new EMV chip technology encrypts the credit or debit card information every time the consumer uses it for an in-store transaction. However, fraudsters have taken notice of the proposed change and are trying to scam consumers by sending messages that seem to be from a bank or credit card company.

The fake messages suggest that the consumer should provide information through either a link or by responding to the message before receiving a new EMV smart chip card. But in reality, the message is just a ploy to steal their personal information.

“If you receive a message that starts out, ‘Dear Cardholder,’ asking you to provide your account number or other identifying information, don’t respond,” warned Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “Contact your credit card company or bank directly to confirm the request is real before clicking on any link.”

While smart chip technology is expected to greatly limit credit card fraud, the EMV cards will not deter every type of identity theft. Since the United Kingdom adopted EMV technology in 2004, credit card theft decreased by 75 percent while fraud has moved to online purchases and automated teller machine card skimming.

Smart chip technology will not offer total identity protection, said Daniel O’Bannon, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

“Consumers should continue to use secure websites for online payments, keep a paper trail, and check for suspicious activity,” he advised. “An educated consumer is a scam artists’ worst nightmare.”

He acknowledged that the smart cards are a great advance in technology that provides another layer of protection against fraud, but consumers still “have to be on your toes.”

“With credit cards and with debit cards, people still need to be cautious,” O’Bannon said. “While chips help to provide additional security, you still have to be careful that you keep a hold of that card that you’re not using it in places that it could get stolen from — online or otherwise.”


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