Don’t Fall Victim To Contactless Card Fraud

A major investigation has exposed a flaw with contactless cards.

In controlled tests with experts, criminals were able to swipe money off contactless cards just by passing people in the street. It’s also possible to steal information that can be used to steal your identity.

Don’t panic, though, bank card fraud on these new types of cards is currently rare and banks will typically refund you the full amount.

It’s important to note that our tests showed fraudsters only have to get within a few inches of your card, even if it is stored in your wallet, to scam you. Fraud was even possible when contactless cards were in bags and jacket pockets.

The equipment needed to commit these crimes is available online from as little as £30.

How To Protect Yourself

When using contactless cards the most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings and anything suspicious.

Contactless cards have a circuit around the edge. Cutting off the top right-hand corner breaks the circuit and stops it sending a signal to a payment machine. You can still use the card to make Chip and Pin payments, however. Beware that cash machines can detect the fault and may swallow the card, so it’s not an ideal solution.

Another option is to wrap the card in foil. The metal acts as barrier, blocking the contactless signal emitted by the card. However, foil can rip easily and may need to be replaced often.

Some companies have launched special products that will protect your card.

Defender Note offers A5 pieces of plastic that can be cut to size and placed inside wallets (£7.50, defendernote.co.uk). Just like the tin foil, it blocks any signals — so the contactless technology won’t work unless you take it out.

You can also buy special wallets that work in the same way (from £35, houseoffraser.co.uk).

Almost all new debit and credit cards are now contactless, with 92 million currently in use. The technology allows you to pay a bill of up to £30 without typing in your PIN at the checkout. You just tap the card against the reader. This is great to saving time but it just opens up a new type of fraud.

You can request a non-contactless card, but some issuers, such as Barclaycard, will refuse.

Our expert demonstrated how a card reader the size of a smartphone could be concealed in the palm of his hand. It had to be attached to a laptop by a wire — but this could be threaded through jacket sleeves to a computer in a backpack. This was then able to scan cards from as far away as 4 inches. This could be someone passing you on the street or stood next to you in the queue at a coffee shop.

When two contactless cards were put inside a wallet, details for both or either one could be recorded.

Richard Koch, head of policy at The UK Cards Association, says: “We are aware of examples where card information has been harvested in laboratory tests, but there has never been a verified real-world case of these types of fraud. Contactless cards are very safe and anyone who is a victim of fraud will get their money back.”

Our advice to you is to be aware of your surroundings. If in doubt, don’t use a contactless card.

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