In its ninth year, MasterCard's holiday fraud prevention seminar program, which educates retailers to the intricacies of credit card fraud, is now underway nationwide.

Teaming up with law enforcement agencies at 62 malls in more than 20 states, MasterCard security staffers are touring the country to educate merchants through December.

MasterCard reports that 33% of all credit card transactions take place during the holiday season, making it a potentially vulnerable time for credit card fraud. The association and its members are taking preemptive steps to avoid wide-scale illegal card use as the season approaches.

"Our primary objectives with these seminars include raising awareness about credit card crime as a problem and emphasizing the importance of proper acceptance and security procedures," said Joel Utsker, senior vice president, MasterCard security and risk management.

Last year 40 seminars were conducted throughout the United States with approximately 500 merchants participating.

At the seminars, law enforcement agencies give tips on how to enhance store security, how to spot shoplifters, and what to do if criminal activity is suspected.

After the seminars, merchants are given educational materials, emergency phone numbers and a fraud identification fact sheet for use at point of sale.

Participants also view a fraud prevention video which covers identifying card security features and how they work, identifying fraudulent credit cards and what to do if one is presented, proper acceptance procedures, and recognizing suspicious customer behavior.

In addition, MasterCard created '"The Bankcard Acceptance Kit," designed to provide merchants with an overview of accepting bankcards in their business. The kit covers general guidelines for accepting bankcards and ATM/debit cards, including security and fraud, customer service tips, authorization procedures, and chargeback tips.

The kit is distributed at the seminars and through merchant financial institutions.

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