New technology will make it difficult for credit cards thieves

There is a new way to protect your plastic and personal information.

You may have already gotten the new credit cards, with microchips embedded. You won't notice much of a difference when you make a purchase, but that chip will make it more difficult for thieves to steal your identity.

Known as the 'chip and pin' system, it will make major data breaches, like what happened to Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and several other retailers, less of a problem for millions of customers.

"There are all these stolen credit card numbers out there and in the marketplace and the crooks are using it to make counterfeit cards," Ed Pei of the Hawaii Bankers Association, "With this new technology it will be much more difficult to counterfeit a card."

Many banks have already started rolling out the plastic but the technology is not cheap. Each credit card now costs 10 times as much to make, and retailers have to switch out the old machines that swipe the cards, to the new ones that read the micro chip cards.

If retailers don't make the upgrade by October 1, they will have to absorb the loss when counterfeit cards are used to buy items. Until then, banks are absorbing most of that.

"It's really important that our retailers get up to date with their equipment," says Sheri Sakamoto, President of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, "If retailers don't have those conversion equipment for the cards, the liability will go back onto the retailer."

Experts say mom and pop stores won't spend too much to upgrade because they often just need one of the machines, but stores with multiple registers will shell out quite a bit to upgrade.

Even Honolulu Police say, the upfront cost is worth it.

"It's a wise investment in the long run," says Capt. John McCarthy, "It's going to cost you a little bit of money now, but it's going to save you a lot of problems."

Recently Honolulu Police arrested a California man buying high-end items with counterfeits. Police say he is part of an organized gang of thieves who spend thousands of dollars with stolen credit card numbers.

There is one way thieves can get around the chip protection, by convincing cashiers to manually punch in the numbers.

"That's a really bad thing to do, all the way around," says McCarthy.

"The chip and pin system has already been used in Europe and Asia for several years. Experts say it has lowered fraud by as much as 70%.

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