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A few years ago, I began to hear about the new secure chip technologies. They were coming soon. Just like with online banking and other online monetary exchanges, I could not for the life of me see how they could be secure. I vowed, with online banking, that I would never submit to the activities. I did the same with the idea of using chip cards.

It is turning out to be an interesting exercise to watch how these new technologies are adopted and become ubiquitous in our lives and society. It is like we are being controlled—that we can be convinced to do almost anything. Was it the extra charges for using personal, face-to-face banking or simply the convenience in our ever growing hectic lifestyle that has swayed us into acceptance? Online financial activities are so common now that hardly anybody questions the security aspects. Why don’t we hear more about the problems with electronic financial exchanges?

So, what about chip cards? I wanted to hold off as long as possible, but, credit cards are a different ball game than something like changing the way you do something. Credit cards expire and then you have no choice. But wait, some were too eager to get me using the new chip technology.

One day, I received a phone call from MasterCard stating that my card number, a number I had for about 35 years, was within a range of numbers that they said “might have been compromised.” They had simply gone ahead and terminated my card. I had to cut up the card and I would receive a new one within two weeks. What was I to do in the meantime, I asked? No card! And, you guessed it, the new card was a chip card. I used it for a few weeks and then it expired and I got a new one. Go figure!

So, I had a PIN number to look after now. The first time I used the card, I must have seemed like a dummy. “What, I don’t have to sign? What is safer about that?”, I asked. Soon, I learned that usage at stores can vary. I hand my card over and the cashier (?) hands me back a machine with my card sticking out of it. Careful, misreading the tiny screen and it’s instructions can result in failure and a waist of more time.

Some stores don’t even utilize the technology and opt for a digital signature pad. Now, I am a south paw (lefty) and it is really difficult for me to sign one of these pads, especially when the placement of the pad never accounted for the angle at which most left-handed people write. Absolutely anyone could sign my name better than I do. Slowly, I am starting to develop a new version of my signature, one for use on a digital signature pad. Of course, there are some stores still doing it the old fashioned way, with a slip of paper. I still worry that my digital signature, now scribbled and digitized many times into many systems, might get stolen one day. Does my digital signature get saved somewhere?

Today, my wallet is bursting with chip cards, credit cards, bank cards, and I have a new problem that I think about nearly every time I use one of the cards. What is the PIN number for this one? Unlike some people, I have opted to use a different PIN for each card. My logic tells me that if someone gets my wallet and my PIN, they will have it all, that is, if I have changed all the PIN numbers to be the same code. Thus, I have the numbers kept in a secret place that I have to check before I use the card. But, what if somebody finds my list? Then they will have it all anyway. Stealing a PIN does not seem that difficult, since the keypads are used out in the open with no plastic guards, or anything to stop somebody from seeing what buttons you press. Am I to cup my hand over the keypad like we used to do when we wanted to hide something we were writing in school, like a test?

Isn’t a hand written signature on paper more secure? More authentic? I am always wondering if there is another way. What about fingerprint? Then someone would need to steal both my card and my finger. What about iris recognition? They would have to get my eye too.

I think chip cards are better for the stores than a slip of paper. They certainly do not seem better for me.

There is much more to this business of converting to using chips. See — http://www.spychips.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrITx7_tTT0 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spychips

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