A slide of a card at a POS system sure is convenient, but given last year's Target data theft and recent headlines about the Home Depot breach, some are questioning the safety of transactions.
A slide of a card at a POS system sure is convenient, but given last year's Target data theft and recent headlines about the Home Depot breach, some are questioning the safety of transactions.

“I always use cash,” said the proprietor of the local farmer's market, noting that for him it's all about really seeing just how many dollars are leaving his bank account. “If you use your debit card all the time, it's easy to waste money. When I allocate a certain amount for a week and I run out, well, that's it.” 

Acknowledging that a slide of a card at a POS system sure is convenient, he added that it sure didn't seem all that safe these days given last year's Target data theft and recent headlines about the Home Depot breach. So, on top of getting much too disconnected from just how much money you're frivolously spending using a debit card all the time, you also put yourself at risk to get attacked by hackers, he explained further. 

Nope, cash is king in his world and it's likely to stay that way for some time, especially given all these skimming attacks at large, name brand stores that keep happening. 

My use of POS systems soon may be dethroned by the likes of Visa Token Service, Apple Pay or Google Wallet. 

Years ago, I never would have imagined having this chat with a very small business owner in a very small town. To talk about malware and the prevalence of skimming attacks on POS systems at worldwide retailers would have been the last topic of polite conversation I would have thought I'd be having with a local vendor as I purchased ripe tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and homemade jam. 

Yet, here I was listening with interest to a hard-working, local shop owner wonder at just how these global merchants, with money and resources to spare, hadn't addressed security vulnerabilities in their systems a long time ago given the high volume of in-store and online payments made using debit and credit cards; hearing him talk about encryption and these new EMV cards and other token-based systems that we in the U.S. should really start using; and absorbing his worries about how persistent these Russian hackers are, and about how we still don't know yet just how many cards were compromised in this recent Home Depot attack. 

Ah well, he added, these are reasons why cash is the thing he relies on for his personal shopping. But, he still needs to understand the risks and figure out ways to deal with them in his shop. He tries his best. 

As I swiped my card to buy my bundle of farm-fresh goods, I saw that his best efforts, like those at big retailers, 
weren't really good enough anymore. After all, my use of his POS system and the currency that's king for his own purchases soon may be dethroned by the likes of Visa Token Service, Apple Pay or Google Wallet. And that's probably the best we've got for the time being, although experts already have noted shortcomings. 

Until these more hardened payment systems are rolled out, I guess I'll play it safe in the meantime and call my bank to get yet another new card to replace my possibly compromised existing one. And maybe I'll just carry more cash in my wallet.