News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón


November 25th, 2014


Twitter: @GeorgeGascon

CONTACT:                Maxwell Szabo, (415) 553-9089

Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931

Stephanie Ong Stillman (415) 553-1167




SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In advance of Black Friday, District Attorney George Gascón announced in conjunction with representatives from consumer groups, business associations, Visa Inc. and Square, the launch of a year-long public education campaign to ensure payment card users and businesses adopt EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) chip card technology to protect themselves from fraud.  EMV is a global standard for point-of sale terminals being rolled out in the United States that authenticates credit and debit card transactions in order to prevent the use of counterfeit payment cards and deter fraud. Chip cards are credit, debit, or prepaid cards that have an embedded microchip.  This microchip generates a dynamic one-time use code for each transaction – a cryptogram.


“Consumers and businesses alike need to understand the fundamental changes that are being implemented to prevent card skimming and data breaches,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “The major issuers are providing this technology on credit cards already, so most consumers don’t need to wait for these added security benefits.  Additionally, most businesses still need to update their payment processing systems to avoid liability for fraudulent transactions.”   


U.S. counterfeit fraud on credit cards accounted for $2.4 billion in 2013.[1] In the year ahead, consumers will begin receiving the added security benefits of EMV as financial institutions issue up to 575 million chip credit and debit cards by the end of 2015.  Unlike traditional magnetic swipe cards where the card information can be stolen, recorded, and used with one swipe, the embedded microprocessor in chip cards provides strong transactional security features that are not possible with magnetic swipe cards. The cryptogram, or one-time use code generated by the microchip, changes with every transaction. Even if the card data is stolen, that information cannot be used to create counterfeit cards because the stolen cryptogram would have already expired. The dynamic cryptogram used in chip cards ensures that each use of the card is unique and cannot be replicated.


“A recent survey showed that while about half of U.S. consumers have already heard about chip card technology, 70 percent want to learn more,” said Stephanie Ericksen, vice president of Risk Products, Visa Inc. “As cardholders begin to receive new chip cards and encounter chip terminals at stores where they shop, we want to help all parties be ready and ensure a seamless transition to secure chip technology. Local awareness and education efforts like District Attorney Gascón’s will play an important role in getting the word out to consumers and especially small businesses regarding the important security and innovative benefits of chip technology.”


In collaboration with our partners, the DA’s public education campaign will educate consumers on how to functionally use a chip card; consumers paying at chip enabled readers will need to insert their cards into the terminal instead of swiping.  


The public education campaign will also aim to educate businesses about necessary upgrades they will need to make.  Companies accepting credit and debit cards have until October 2015 to adopt this technology before liability for potential counterfeit fraud could shift to merchants who have not yet adopted chip terminals. Cardholders will continue to be protected from fraud through the zero liability policies of the major card brands.


Eighty countries are in various stages of chip migration, including Canada and countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.  Countries implementing chip payments have reported a decrease in counterfeit card fraud.  The United States is one of the last countries to migrate to chip technology.  American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa have all announced their plans for moving to a chip-based payments infrastructure in the United States.


The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office greatly appreciates the assistance of the many organizations and companies that have committed to informing their members and customers of these important changes in the year ahead.  In particular, we wish to acknowledge the participation of the following individuals and organizations:


Regina Dick-Endrizzi, Small Business Commission
Bob Linscheid, President and CEO, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

Stephen Cornell, Council of District Merchants

Shakib Kaileh, Arab Grocers Association

Gwyneth Borden, Golden Gate Restaurant Association

Richard Holober, Consumer Federation of California

Christina Tetreault, Consumers Union

Stephanie Ericksen, Visa, Inc.

Khobi Brooklyn, Square, Inc.



Words from our partners:


“The business community is united in its efforts to protect consumers from the threat of fraud, and we are committed to ensuring businesses, large and small, are aware of these significant changes.  The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with our members to insure a smooth transition.” 


Bob Linscheid, President & CEO, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce


"Consumers are vulnerable to fraud because crooks have learned how to outwit traditional credit and debit card security systems.  But new EMV chip cards offer much stronger protection to thwart thieves and prevent fraud.  Consumers should request an EMV card today and encourage the local merchants they frequent to upgrade their card readers."


Christina Tetreault, Staff Attorney, Consumers Union


“It’s essential that we work together to ensure small businesses understand the benefits and implications of this new technology.  With the DA’s leadership, San Francisco’s small businesses will be educated and ready for a smooth transition.”


Regina Dick-Endrizzi, Executive Director, Small Business Commission


“We in the small business community welcome this change with open arms, and it will embraced widely as soon as our payment processors are capable of supporting this important technology.”


Stephen Cornell, Board Member, Council of District Merchants


"The Golden Gate Restaurant Association is committed to credit card security for our patrons and will be working to ensure our membership is prepared to accept EMV chip cards.  We are grateful to District Attorney Gascon for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him to educate our members and consumers."  


Gwyneth Borden, Executive Director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association


“Protecting your personal information is immensely important and more difficult than ever.  Californians stand to benefit tremendously from the implementation of these added security measures.”


Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California


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