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Cab Drivers Gain Access to Customers Credit Card Information

by on February 15, 2008

If you remember, I posted a while ago about the controversy surrounding credit cards being used to pay taxi drivers.  I was in support of the change, though I was concerned about the taxi drivers since this payment method cuts even further into the already shrinking income of taxi drivers.  Recently, I have learned that the controversy surrounding credit cards and taxis has only continued to simmer.

Apparently, a recent report uncovered knowledge of cab drivers that can easily gain access to the credit card information of their customers.   Verifone, one of 3 payment vendors used by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, employs touch screen payment units that gave cab drivers easy online access to itemized logs of all their credit card transactions.  Cab drivers could simply login to their accounts to gain access to a list of truncated credit card numbers.  After clicking on that truncated number, they would have access to the entire unencrypted credit card number as well as the expiration date for the credit card.

Needless to say, this fact was making security analysts and consumer advocates uncomfortable with this open invitation for credit card fraud and the significant threat of hacking.  Fortunately, Verifone moved quickly to correct the problem, immediately stepping in and removing their drivers’ online access to the numbers.  Nevertheless, the fact that this information was so easily available was still a bit disconcerting.  As fraud analyst Avivah Litan said, “If you have credit card data online that can be accessed at home through the Internet, you need more than just a password.  Anybody can steal a user name and password.”

Yet, Verifone said that it made the changes in order to make cabbies more comfortable rather than to help increase security.  “It was on the business side,” said Vice President Dave Faoro.  “[it wasn't] a security thing.”

A spokesman for Verifone, Joseph Ledford, made a similar statement, saying “A lot of these merchants were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with having this data.  We thought it to be wise to have the New York office assist them [with it] rather than have the numbers out and around.”

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