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Warning: don't get caught out by this new contactless card fraud

Warning: don't get caught out by this new contactless card fraud

Keep your contactless card in your back pocket? You might want to move it somewhere safer.

Anna Jordan

Rights, Scams and Politics

Anna Jordan
Updated on 18 February 2016

Contactless card holders are being warned about fraudsters carrying Point of Sale (POS) scanners in public places.

Those who keep their card somewhere conspicuous like their back pocket are most at risk. All a thief needs to do is enter an amount under £30 and hold the machine near the card to take the cash.

Caught in the act

Facebook user Paul Jarvis posted a picture of a scammer employing this tactic, saying: “So this guy was spotted wandering round with a Point of Sale (POS) device. All he has to do is key in a price less than £30 and then touch the device on the pocket that contains your wallet.”

The post, which has now been taken down, was shared thousands of times. The photo in the post appeared on a Russian website earlier this month.

Jarvis explained how easy it is for your money to get stolen by using the Near Field Communication (NFC) function on his mobile phone:

“I’ve actually shown people this using the NFC function on my mobile to read their card data through their wallet to freak them out but this is the first time I’ve seen someone doing it for real. Time to invest in a screened wallet I guess…”

It’s easy enough to get hold of a machine: a quick Google search for ‘buy point of sale terminal’ brings up more than 39 million results, the first two from eBay. Hacker forums also reportedly sell customised versions of shop POS terminals designed to clone people’s cards.

There are plenty of targets for the scammers too. Spending on contactless has increased almost fourfold since the beginning of 2015 according to Richard Koch, Head of Policy at The UK Cards Association.

Are we at risk?

No reports of this nature have been received in the UK yet, though every card payment is fully traceable, meaning that fraud is easily identifiable.

A spokesman for The UK Cards Association said: 

"We have not received any reports of this type of incident ever occurring in the UK. Cardholders are fully protected against fraud and would receive a full refund from their bank."

Luckily, it's not as easy as having a POS terminal either. To be able to receive money from a card payment, a retailer must be set up with an aquiring bank which will carry out thorough security checks before setting up an account, monitoring new accounts for suspicious activity.

How you can protect your card

Consumer group Which? advises contactless card users to wrap their wallet or card in tin foil as the foil deflects the reader and shields the card, even when they’re in close range.

Metal cardholders and lined wallets are available from retailers if you want something a bit sturdier.

All that said, the best piece of advice we could give you is to keep your purse or wallet in a separate bag and keep it out of sight at all times.

Find out more at How a foil-lined wallet can protect you from fraud.

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