Contactless fraud is on a meteoric rise in the UK. According to a recent Which? article, over £5.6 million was taken from credit and debit cards with contactless capabilities over the first six months of 2017 alone – a figure that’s almost double that of the same timeframe in the year prior.
The reason for this is partly down to the increasing popularity of contactless cards. Payments are quick and easy, which minimises the time customers spend at the checkouts but the lack of a need to enter PIN numbers has opened the door to fraudsters looking to exploit the freedom associated with this type of transaction.
While fraud is prevalent, there are caps in place to limit contactless spending to £30 – meaning that if your card is stolen, there is little chance of significant one-off purchases being made, but these fees can add up to a dangerous bill if you’re unaware that your card’s missing for a prolonged amount of time.
Luckily there are plenty of preventative measures that you can take aside from choosing to outright refuse the option of contactless. Here we explore five of the most notable ways of avoiding contactless fraud.
1. Utilise smartphone payments
Thanks to technology, there are many alternative ways of paying for goods without the need for your card. Mobile phone-based payment functions like Apple Pay and Google Pay are increasing in popularity, and are advanced enough to swap the clunky PIN-based security systems for a fingerprint scanner.
This means that even if your mobile phone is stolen, there would be little chance of an act of fraud being committed in terms of processing payments contactlessly – providing that little piece of added peace of mind to what would otherwise be an adverse situation.
It could also be worth taking a look at payment gateways like Stripe, Paypal and Amazon Pay to ensure that you have an eWallet in place to make transactions in lieu of contactless. There are plenty of payment gateways offering different levels of service, so it’s worth shopping around to find on that you most trust with your finances.
2. Avoid letting your card leave your hands
The best practice for making payments is to tap your card on a contactless reader yourself. This way you can clearly see the total cost that you’re being charged while keeping valuable information close to you. However, in some places, like bars, it’s relatively common for staff to take your card to complete a transaction on your behalf.
While this is often an innocent gesture, it leaves your details at risk of being skimmed – meaning that your payment information is copied by fraudsters.
To prevent this, take extra care when making purchases from places that take your card over the counter for payments – and at the very least, make sure that your cards never leave your sight if a staff member makes a transaction on your behalf.
3. Keep your cards safely stored
Because there’s no need for the entry of a PIN number when making contactless payments, it’s imperative that your contactless card remains in your possession.
To ensure this, keep your cards safely stored when out and about – especially if you’re planning on using public transport or walking through a heavily populated space.
If you keep your cards loose in pockets or visible to people nearby, then you’re in danger of having it stolen by someone who’d then be capable of making a series of £30 purchases without the need for providing any extra information.
4. Ask for a receipt
Sometimes fraud isn’t what it seems. You could be swindled out of money on your contactless account through an accidental charge from a retailer.
Because of how easy it is to make payments using a contactless card, we can often think of receipts as a bulky inconvenience in the transaction process. But sometimes they’re vital in preventing input errors by staff when totalling up a bill. Just one misplaced zero, and your £2.80 morning coffee could run a total of £28.
While nobody likes carrying paper these days, receipts could pay dividends in settling a billing curiosity when it comes to working out why you’ve been overcharged for a product or service.
5. Tinfoil hat time
A more aggressive way in which contactless fraud is occurring is through rogue contactless card readers carried by fraudsters in public places. They work by being held close to a pocket where a card is located and setting up a contactless transaction without the holder being aware that it’s even taking place.
An interestingly effective way of preventing this is for cardholders to wrap their card in tinfoil, which is resolute enough to disrupt any unwanted payment processors from carrying out a transaction.
Coating your cards in tinfoil sounds fairly impractical, so it’s handy that some businesses have set about creating foil-lined wallets that effortlessly prevent card ‘skimming’ from occurring. ‘RFID-blocking wallets’ promise to stop any meddling with your cards in a way that’s a tad more practical and aesthetically pleasing than coating your payment methods in foil.