The news this week that a Seattle man who went on a year-long ATM skimming spree was jailed for five years is worth pondering considering the recent announcements made regarding the push for EMV adoption in the U.S.
According to news reports, Asrat G-Sellassie was arrested last June and was ultimately connected to more than 30 ATM skimming incidents in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada, netting him more than $400,000 from victims. G-Sellassie targeted Chase Bank branches by installing skimmers and cameras to capture card numbers and PINs, according to published reports.
Meanwhile, there has been a flurry of announcements by major card companies and banks touting plans to bring EMV to the United States. New York-based American Express, which announced its road map for EMV adoption in the U.S. in June, was the last of the three major U.S. card schemes to detail its plans
Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard announced in May the formation of a cross-industry group designed to foster collaboration and alignment among networks, issuers, merchants, acquirers, processors, terminal manufacturers, card manufacturers and other groups in the implementation of EMV technology in the U.S. San Francisco-based Visa, which said it already had shipped 1 million EMV cards in the U.S. as of Dec. 31, 2011, announced its EMV road map for the U.S. last August.
Meanwhile, several U.S. banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and JPMorgan Chase, already have begun issuing EMV cards to select customers who travel internationally.
How are the two related? Well, one of the oft-touted benefits of EMV cards is that they could virtually eliminate skimming. Last month I spoke with Novantas analyst Steve Ledford, who said skimming is "much more difficult to do" on an EMV card.
If the U.S. does adopt EMV - the standard for cards in much of the world -- will stories such as this one involving Mr. G-Sellassie be a thing of the past? Only time will tell.