By Toby Weir-Jones, Vice President of Product Development, Managed Security Solutions Group, BT Global Services
As the world gets ready for the next Summer Olympics — in London 2012 — it’s worth giving thought to all the banking infrastructure that will be built – temporarily – to support the Games, and to all the athletes and visitors who will participate.
The most obvious external sign will be the prevalence of ATMs scattered throughout the Game sites, but there will also be thousands of Points of Sale, PIN pads and mobile payment systems in use; and most customers will hardly give any thought to the legitimacy of all those magstripe and smart card readers.
In addition to thousands of official vendors, the Games will also host many more unofficial vendors. Some will walk quietly within the official grounds, while others will simply take advantage of the excitement in and around London. Every gift shop, convenience store and mobile concession cart will be selling merchandise related to the Games. Traditionally cash-only, most of these merchants will likely take other forms of electronic payment. And not all consumers will know enough about these technologies to separate the scammers from the honest purveyors. Check out this article for a good overview of the trends.
The proliferation of branding on seemingly every flat surface does make it difficult for a concerned-but-uninformed consumer to make the right decision. How do you know if the ATM in front of you is really affiliated with the bank whose name is on the front panel? How do you know if a vendor with a cart will not only sell you a plush toy, but also harvest your card details and sell them illicitly?
The luddite’s response is to carry and use only enough cash as you can afford to lose should your wallet be lost during the day. The 21st-century approach, however, can take a few different forms:
1) Get yourself a new card issued just for use in higher-risk public places, with a unique card number, PIN, etc.
2) Make use of the daily-limit features on your account management settings
3) Encourage banks to offer limits by purchase type, geography or within a date range
4) Try to avoid vendors who would force you to use an unfamiliar payment technology
5) Carry emergency cash or traveler’s checks to use if all else fails
There is a certain confidence that comes from using banking and payment facilities that you’ve seen hundreds of times before, in permanent buildings, with all the implied permanence such installations convey. Being on the move, however, means you’ll often encounter novel installations and technologies, and generally they are all about convenience first. Your banks will have detailed information about their own recommended safety precautions as well if they themselves are rolling out new technologies or features you can use when traveling or attending a major event.