Fed Warns of ‘Escalating Threats’ to U.S. Payment System

The 12 Federal Reserve district banks warned of mounting threats to the U.S. payment system such as fraud, and called for streamlining transactions from the point of payment to the point of receipt.

“Opportunity exists to improve speed and efficiency of payments and to maintain payment system safety in the face of escalating threats,” the Fed said today in a paper posted on its website.

The central bank oversees the nation’s payment system, which handles more than $3 trillion a day to pay for goods, services and financial instruments, according to the central bank. The Fed is seeking public comments on the weaknesses of the system, including its inability to process transactions in near-real-time.

“New ways of making payments and advanced fraud schemes and technologies present new risks and challenges to maintaining public confidence in the payments system,” the Fed said. “The impact of a significant fraud event, cyber-attack or natural disaster on the public’s confidence may adversely impact the flow of commerce that is increasingly electronic or ‘digital.’”

The U.S. lags behind other countries in the speed of transactions, the Fed said.

“In a world where several other countries are moving to ubiquitous near-real-time retail payment systems, the U.S. payment system does not have this capability,” according to the paper, written by the Fed district banks’ Financial Services Policy Committee.

The central bank also said “cross-border payments from and to the United States are slow, inconvenient, costly and lack transparency regarding fees and timing.”

The Fed is seeking responses to a survey on payment systems through Dec. 13, 2013, at fedpaymentsimprovement.org.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at jzumbrun@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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