Thieves are stealing money from contactless cards in people’s pockets, according to a new report.
Contactless cards are now standard issue for most new credit and debit cards, and account for one fifth of all UK card payments. By simply holding the card to the point of sale card reader, you can make a payment of up to £30.
However, there have been reports in Russia of criminals taking advantage of the contactless function to remove funds from accounts without the owner knowing, the UK Cards Association warns.
How is this happening?
According to the group, thieves are buying point of sale card terminals and using the Near Field Communication (NFC) function on their mobile phones to read the data on any cards nearby. They can then take payments from the card, without the cardholder realising.
This card machine only needs to be a few inches away from the card for this to work and it even works when the card is in a pocket, purse or handbag. Thankfully, these reported cases have taken place in Russia. There haven’t been any verified cases, so far, in the UK.
The newspaper reports the scam worked best when the cards were in trouser or jacket pockets. But the difficulty for the scammers is that all payments must be made to a retail outlet that would need to be set up in advance - although a dummy retailer can be set up online by people with the right know-how.
How can I stop this happening to me?
Interestingly, one of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to carry more than one contactless card in your pocket or wallet. If the point of sale card terminal senses two cards, it automatically flashes up a warning and doesn’t take any money because it can’t work out from which card to take a payment.
Other ways of keeping your contactless card safe include wrapping the card in metal – just regular tin foil or a specially designed cardholder – as this blocks the signal being transmitted.
Always check your bank statement carefully too. If there are any payments that don’t look right to you, let your card provider know immediately. Don’t feel embarrassed that you might have just forgotten a payment you made – it’s still best to check.
If you do think you’ve fallen victim to credit card fraud, as soon as your card provider has been informed they have to carry out an investigation to find out whether payments have been taken from your account fraudulently. If they discover this is the case, the funds should be returned to you.
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