Counterfeit credit card fraud reaches lowest level since 2013; other fraud types increase, says Auriemma Consulting Group

NEW YORK, NY (July 7, 2016) — The US credit card market’s move to EMV chip technology has helped reverse a years-long trend of increasing counterfeit fraud, new data from Auriemma Consulting Group (ACG) shows.

The share of financial losses stemming from counterfeit activity – which increased dramatically following a wave of high-profile data compromises in recent years – fell 18% in the first quarter of this year, reaching its lowest level since early 2013. Counterfeit fraud losses have declined steadily relative to other categories since the industry’s EMV liability shift took effect late last year, and have decreased by nearly one-fourth since their peak in late 2014.

The decrease in counterfeit fraud was reported in ACG’s Card Fraud Control Benchmark Study, which tracks fraud trends among 30 major US credit card issuers on a monthly and quarterly basis.

“The EMV migration has reached an inflection point for card issuers,” said Ira Goldman, who leads ACG’s line of fraud control executive groups. “Chip card technology, coupled with normalization of fraud in the wake of major national breaches, is beginning to have a major impact.”

The counterfeit fraud reductions are correlated with EMV adoption, as card issuers make significant headway converting to the new standard: the embedded technology – which protects against counterfeit card use at store point-of-sale systems – now covers 66% of credit cards in circulation and more than 80% of cardholder spending, according to ACG data. Meanwhile, “chip-on-chip” transactions – a key measure of real-world EMV usage – increased to 30% in the first quarter of the year. Many issuers have accelerated EMV card issuance and put in place other anti-fraud protections as criminals target less secure magnetic stripe cards.

As these mitigation efforts yield results, however, fraudsters are shifting to other methods of attack – a trend long expected to accompany the EMV migration. In fact, while counterfeit fraud is declining, all other categories ACG tracks in the study – including identity theft, fraudulent applications, and lost/stolen – are increasing in frequency and levels of financial loss. Account takeover (ATO), a form of identity theft often conducted using social engineering tactics, has emerged as a particularly significant threat. A smaller category with historically low incident rates, the share of losses related to these attacks spiked 37% year-over-year.

Meanwhile, card-not-present (CNP) activity, which encompasses online and mobile fraud, increased 12%. CNP now represents the largest category of fraudulent activity, as fraudsters pivot away from physical attacks and take advantage of growth in e-commerce shopping.

“These shifts in the distribution of fraud were expected, but the magnitude of change is somewhat surprising,” Goldman said.

The industry is taking preventative measures to combat emerging threats, including ATO and online fraud. These measures include adding extra layers of protection, such as 3D Secure technology and one-time passcodes, to make online purchases safer. Card issuers have also implemented more sophisticated risk scoring models, new fraud rules, and identity authentication technologies, including voice biometrics, to detect and prevent ATO and other attacks within enterprise contact centers.

“FIs will continue to hire strategists and utilize tools to counter-measure fraud, regardless of the means in which it is perpetrated,” Goldman said. “Our model provides an ideal setting for issuers to join forces in the face of evolving threats and opportunities.”

About Auriemma Consulting Group

ACG is a boutique management consulting firm with specialized focus on the Payments and Lending space. We deliver actionable solutions and insights that add value to our clients’ business activities across a broad set of industry topics and disciplines. Founded in 1984, ACG has grown from a one-man shop to a nearly 50-person firm with offices in New York and London.

About ACG Fraud Control Roundtables

ACG runs a series of information sharing and benchmarking groups designed for executives and managers in fraud strategy and operations. Spanning credit card, debit card, and consumer banking, ACG’s fraud control roundtables combine executive meetings, industry-leading operational benchmarking, and peer group surveys to help participants identify vulnerabilities and optimize fraud management strategies. For information on membership, contact


Tom LaMagna

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