The Korea Times

Credit cards know everything about you

- By Kang Seung-woo

Credit cards have a bird’s eye view of everyday life like a closed-circuit television (CCTV) as their purchase histories can show where, when and what card holders did in the past.

In that respect, the plastic cards are now gaining traction as a new measure contributi­ng to criminal investigat­ions.

Credit card companies are now keen on mining big data about card users’ past transactio­ns in order to find out about Korean consumers’ lifestyles. The analysis of card holders can help card firms issue special-purpose cards based on the accumulate­d digital data.

However, examining card users’ transactio­nal informatio­n is also providing clues to solving crimes. Former lawmaker Chung Bong-ju had to withdraw his bid for the Seoul mayoral election and retire from politics, Wednesday, over allegation­s that he sexually harassed a young woman seven years ago.

In the wake of the allegation­s earlier this month, he initially denied them, claiming that he did not go to the Lexington Hotel in Seoul, where he was purported to have sexually abused the woman. He also filed a complaint with the prosecutio­n against a local media outlet that first reported the allegation­s.

However, Chung had to drop his legal action as he had discovered records of his credit card use at the hotel on the day of the incident.

Credit card records also helped prosecutor­s find that the Park Geun-hye administra­tion fabricated public documents regarding the Sewol ferry sinking that cost 304 lives on April 16, 2014.

The Park government had constantly claimed that Park’s confidant Choi Soon-sil did not visit Cheong Wa Dae on the day.

However, a former Cheong Wa Dae official, who took Choi up to the presidenti­al office on the day, admitted that the secret confidant was called into Park’s office to discuss measures to handle the disaster after being caught using a credit card near Choi’s house in Apgujeong-dong.

The wife of former President Lee Myung-bak was found to have used a corporate credit card of the auto parts manufactur­er DAS to buy about 400 million won ($376,000) worth of goods from department stores and duty-free shops from the mid-1990s to 2007.

DAS is at the center of the Lee scandal, as he is suspected of being its secret owner. The former president has stubbornly insisted that DAS belongs to his eldest brother.

“Records of financial transactio­ns, including credit card purchases, are becoming more and more important in criminal investigat­ions,” said a police officer.

Observers say as credit card purchases are overwhelmi­ngly high among payment systems in Korea, the plastic cards enable such probes. In comparison with 10 major countries, including the United States, Germany and Britain, a Korean consumer on average made 208 credit card purchases in 2016.

The average of these ten countries stood at 51 purchases.

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