This stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale. It means paying for goods and services using computer terminals in the shop, petrol station or wherever. There are already a number of EFT-PO S schemes. Payments are made using credit cards and/or debit cards. Your card is 'swiped' through a point-of-sale terminal and you are asked to authorise the payment by either signing a form produced by the terminal or by punching your PIN into a keypad. If the system is 'online' it can 'talk' directly to your bank's or building society's computer to check that you have sufficient money in your account or that you're within your credit limit, and immediately debit you for the amount paid. If the system is 'off line' it will store details of the transaction which will be passed to your bank or building society later through a clearing system. With an off-line system, the point-of-sale terminal may itself have a limit on the size of transaction that it will accept. With an on-line system, your PIN may be checked for authenticity against a distant database, or with either system the PIN may be checked against data recorded on the card itself.

As long as EFT-POS uses PINs for authorising transactions, it suffers from the same susceptibility to fraud as the cash card system 82 to ). But new types of card and new methods of authorisation are being developed. 'Smart' or 'memory' cards contain their own microprocessor which can be loaded with data, such as a spending limit, and programmed to record transaction details and reduce the available balance. It's alleged that smart cards are virtually impossible to forge without the manufacturer's equipment.

Two new authentication systems are under investigation which if used in conjunction with smart cards would greatly increase the security of card payment systems. With electronic signature recognition you'd use your written signature as you do now with cheques and so on. The electronic checking is claimed to be more reliable than visual checking by a shop assistant or bank clerk. Biometric identification techniques are perhaps more controversial - they would rely on checking some exclusively personal characteristic, such as your fingerprint, palmprint, voice, retina, or even analysing your veins or saliva. Out of these, fingerprint recognition is thought to be the most likely to be acceptable.

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Debit Cards And Pin Numbers

- if the envelope containing your notification of a new PIN is torn or looks as if it might have been tampered with, phone the card issuer and ask for the PIN to be cancelled and replaced by a new one

- don't disclose your PIN to anyone - however tru... see: Debit Cards And Pin Numbers

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