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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

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January 18, 2011

Retail Payments Risk Forum hosts 4th annual "Emerging Risks in Emerging Payments" conference

On November 15–16, 2010, law enforcement, regulators, and other selected payments experts gathered once again to exchange ideas, research, and business expertise at the "Emerging Risks in Emerging Payments" conference at the Atlanta Fed. The conference provided a platform for sharing retail payments knowledge and insights among payment industry participants, regulators, and law enforcement. The conference also expanded networking opportunities for industry stakeholders essential to the payments industry, all of whom have a common interest in improving the detection and mitigation of emerging risks and fraud in emerging retail payments systems.

Opening remarks were made by Patrick Barron, first vice president of the Atlanta Fed. He was followed by Richard Oliver, executive vice president and director of the Retail Payments Risk Forum. Five expert panels with representatives from law enforcement, corporations, service providers, and other stakeholders discussed a range of themes related to emerging risks in emerging payments. Each panel provided a high-level overview of the state of the retail payments environment.

The following brief summary captures some of the key themes discussed during the event. Additional presentation materials are available on the Atlanta Fed's website.

Emerging trends in retail payments
Recent technological advances have changed the way retail payments are conducted. For instance, innovations in the card space are providing better ways to combat card fraud. Countries that have adopted Europay, MasterCard, and VISA (EMV) have seen a marked reduction in skimming fraud compared with countries that use magstripe cards, including card-not-present transactions over the Internet.

The mobile payments panelists predict that consumers will eventually migrate to mobile wallets—the speed and convenience of payment both for the merchant and consumer enhance this likelihood. However, the panelists agreed that some of the challenges to mobile payment adoption in the United States include lack of standardization, merchant investment hurdles, perceived security requirements, and lack of a clear value proposition for consumers.

Emerging risks in retail payments
Innovation introduces new risk factors. Several panelists highlighted the ongoing importance of protecting consumer information as the sophistication of financial crimes continues to increase. For instance, one panelist explained that in the card space, virtual prepaid cards can be funded by a transfer from another card or by phone or Internet, often times anonymously. In some cases, illicit funds can become instantly available from ATMs in more than 200 countries, without sharing confidential or bank information, which makes it very difficult for law enforcement to trace and monitor these funds.

Another panelist discussed the risk profiles of the different person-to-person (P2P) business models. For example, while the mobile channel is emerging as a viable method for P2P payments, telecom customer data—and, to a lesser extent, e-mail addresses—have become reliable ways to identify individuals to receive messages. However, they are not 100 percent reliable public directories. Some of the key risk distribution issues in a P2P environment include unauthorized transactions, intermediary error (such as misdirected payments), and fraud.

Additionally, panelists discussed the emergence of payments in the social network realm. One panelist discussed how fraudsters use social network sites and the data they gather from those sites to commit cybercrimes such as identity theft and "clickjacking scams," which trick users into clicking on ads and other sites that divert them from safe and reputable sites. Another panelist discussed the rapidly growing new segment of social network "businesses" that leverage the payments platform but turn out to be shell or fraudulent businesses.

How to address emerging risks in new retail payments?
Fraud and risk detection and mitigation must keep pace with emerging payments trends. Advances in payments technology enable new ways to conduct retail payments but can also create new channels for criminals to exploit and commit payments crimes.

The panelists highlighted these issues and more while proffering ways for regulators, law enforcement, and others to work together towards mitigating and deterring risks and fraud in the emerging payments environment. All in attendance recognized that the challenges ahead are common to all parties involved, and information sharing along with collaborative action is imperative for achieving the goal of ensuring a safe and efficient payments system.

By Ana Cavazos-Wright, senior payments risk analyst in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed