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Selfies: The next big thing for credit card security?

The selfie might not be just a self-indulgent American pastime. It could end up battling credit card theft.

MasterCard (MA) will start testing a new type of facial recognition software later this year aimed at verifying that the person making an online purchase is the actual cardholder. About 500 people will test the new online service for a few months, Jennifer Stalzer, vice president of corporate communications, wrote in an email.

How does it work? When consumers make an online purchase, MasterCard will prompt them during the checkout process to snap a photograph of their face using a MasterCard app on their smartphone. The key is that consumers are required to blink during the process, which "demonstrates proof of life (for example you are not just trying to scan an existing photo)," Stalzer wrote.

Fighting credit card fraud in line and online 02:50

One benefit to consumers is that the selfie-check could eliminate the need for passwords, which are sometimes forgotten or hacked by cybercriminals.

"Today's consumers are connected -- our mobile phones are our best friend," Stalzer noted. "As the digital and physical worlds continue to converge, we see biometric-based payment security becoming commonplace. We believe the millennial generation in particular will relate to this technology and will embrace it."

The test comes as credit card fraud is on the rise. America has become a favorite for plastic hackers because most consumers and retailers are still using old swipe-style cards, which are easier to steal or duplicate than newer cards with technology designed to stymie theft. The new cards, called EMV cards or chip-and-pin cards, are currently widespread in Europe, but are just rolling out here in the U.S.

About 47 percent of all global card fraud affects cards issued to U.S. residents, even though the country represents only 24 percent of card volume, Barclays found earlier this year.

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