U.S. lenders behind on safeguarding credit cards - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

U.S. lenders behind on safeguarding credit cards

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

First it was Target, where tens of millions of credit card numbers were stolen as people paid at the register.  Then, it was Neiman Marcus – a sophisticated data breach there too.

Now, Duke Energy Progress is warning customers in the Carolinas that their payment information may have been stolen. A Duke rep says a former contract employee could be to blame; that the company suspects he manually collected numbers. 

They do not expect Charlotte-area customers to be affected.

But it doesn't matter how high or low tech the culprit is when the safety mechanisms on your credit card are hopelessly outdated.

And most of them are in this country, according to retired FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker. "Even South America is ahead of us," he says.

U.S. lenders are a decade behind in distributing the kind of secure cards common in other parts of the world - cards built with a computer chip that keeps a customer's account details invisible, even fluid. 

"They use what they call chip and pin, which is very hard to compromise," Swecker says. "The numbers are encrypted, they're dynamic, they change. So it's a very different system than the U.S."

Credit card theft in America was once the lowest in the world, according to experts, but it's doubled since chip cards spread through Europe, causing cyber thieves to turn their focus here. It could reportedly cost around $8 billion for U.S. creditors to update their technology.

"It is going to be an expensive proposition but they've made it through in Europe," says Swecker, "and they've eliminated a lot of fraud."

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