Payments Industry Trends Leading the Way in Security, Fraud Prevention

Key takeaways from the MAC Level Up annual conference.

March 12, 2020 • Published by

I always knew the Merchant Acquirers’ Committee (MAC) annual conference was awesome because of its organizers’ relentless pursuit of providing a quality educational experience. Every level of payments industry stakeholder attends this event, and I’m sure everyone has at least a handful of takeaways as I do.

After leaving the March 2-5 conference, I ate lunch at an open seating restaurant at the airport. Over lunch I educated two people on the latest Intelligence on credit card security and fraud, armed with new stats and insights I’d picked up at the conference.

This was proof positive that MAC delivers as it relates to educational content and relevance. In this post, I will share my biggest takeaways from the conference.

A Confluence of Industry Trends

The word that keeps coming into my head is “confluence.” It typically refers to a flowing together of rivers; but in this case I am applying it to trends. The e-commerce world is now experiencing the flowing together of increased fraud attacks, as was expected. At the same time, our technology enhancements and know-how can be applied to address the growing risks.

E-Commerce skimming is real and is one of the next big threats. The vulnerabilities it is designed to exploit will not be a surprise to most people. Updating and patching software along with a firm understanding of the breakdown of roles and responsibilities are two of the keys. There is an increasing interest in user authentication using technology like biometrics to address risk. I even heard a biometrics provider talk about a new solution for “merchant authentication.” This totally makes sense if you think about the growth of the human factor in fraud and breaches.

The other area where confluence comes to mind is highlighted in a book shared by one of the most compelling speakers at the conference: Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy is Threatening our Future. The book was written by Dr. Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University and Director, Terrorism, at the Transnational crime and Corruption Center (TraCC).

One of the things we learned from multiple speakers at the conference is that gangs involved in drug trafficking are often shifting to card fraud, as it is safer and easier to perpetrate. Add in the fact that we have yet to shift away from magnetic stripes in the U.S. because they act as a reliable back-up for chip card (contact or contactless) transactions.

There is still a very active market for swiped card data, as evidenced by recent breaches in the retail (card present) world. Everyone also agrees that retail petroleum has been particularly hit hard this past year due to sophisticated skimming schemes, which is likely why there will be no give in the October 2020 EMV deadline for fuel retailers.

But the issues run far deeper than that. From child pornography to human trafficking, the underground economy referred to by Dr. Shelley as “dark commerce” is growing and becoming a bigger threat to our well-being. The payments industry can play a significant role in fighting the good fight, and I believe that everyone attending the MAC conference came with a “what can we do to help solve problems?” mindset. Law enforcement, especially at the federal level, had a big impact at the conference and helped us understand just how broad the scope of their operations are, based on the myriad ways fraud and terror cells are working to exploit people and systems.

Moving Forward in Payments

We came away from the MAC conference with an understanding that there is a lot we can do together through education, awareness and “across the lines” collaboration. I also learned a great deal about the federal resources being deployed to address dark commerce threats of all kinds.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the payments industry research report ControlScan and MAC released in conjunction with the conference. The ControlScan/MAC 2020 Acquiring Trends Report shares the latest data and insights on the strategies and tactics merchant service providers are using to boost PCI compliance rates. Download your complimentary copy of the report here.