Don't print full card numbers on receipts

DAVID CANTON - For the London Free Press - May 21, 2005 Read this on Canoe

If they fall into the wrong hands, your debit or credit card numbers can be used to run up charges at your expense.

Businesses should not print debit or credit card numbers on receipts or other documents. Printing them increases the chances of misuse of credit and debit card numbers and is a violation of privacy obligations.

Some people go to the trouble of searching through garbage to steal copies of credit card receipts or other documents. If these records fall into the wrong hands, criminals can control accounts and assume your identity.

The retrieval of credit or debit card information by criminals has become an increasing concern. As most companies will collect and retain our personal information at the point of sale, a plan is needed to ensure its protection.

One of the most obvious answers is the truncation of credit and debit card numbers on receipts. Truncation is the practice of not printing all of the card numbers on transaction slips.

Businesses are required to protect personal information under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The act requires all businesses to ensure customer information is secure, accurate, gathered with consent and not used beyond a stated purpose.

PIPEDA places a legal duty on the retail sector to protect personal information from the risks that can lead to identity theft. These obligations require all organizations that collect debit or credit card information to protect it from unauthorized access, use, disclosure or disposal.

Too often this is not done properly. Look at your debit and credit card receipts to see how many of them print the entire card number.

Such improvements could be implemented by reprogramming credit and debit card machines to obscure part or all of such numbers on customer and merchant receipts.

There needs to be a consistent standard among merchants to block out the same portion of the numbers. This would ensure that at no time would anyone have access to entire credit or debit card numbers by getting hold of different receipts.

In Canada, Visa is in the process of mandating the suppression of at least four numbers on consumer receipts.

The removal of all but the last four numbers on receipts increasingly is being adopted by merchants. MasterCard Canada merchants also use credit card truncation.

However, a consistent truncation must be established to ensure our privacy rights are being maintained.

The issue does not stop at customer receipts. Once the transaction has been authorized at the checkout, there is no need for the business to retain complete card numbers on any document or system.

Identity theft is on the rise and the security of our banking information has become a growing issue as personal information is being collected and retained more than ever before.

The risk of theft multiplies every time our information is retained or disposed of in an unsafe manner. This risk is easy to reduce, however.

Consumers are becoming wary of how their personal information is used and are learning more about their rights over how such information is collected and used.

They are increasingly holding organizations responsible for the protection of their personal information.

It is to a business's advantage to deal properly with debit and credit card numbers to instil consumer confidence, reduce liability and comply with privacy laws.