Contactless Card Fraud

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of chip and pin, introduced into banking services with aims to tackle counterfeit and stolen card fraud. A decade on there are now more ways to pay than ever before with new payment technologies becoming ever more popular. To mark the anniversary the UK Cards Association published figures exploring the legacy of chip and pin. They found:

  • annual counterfeit card fraud losses went down £81.9 million between 2004 and 2014
  • 55 per cent of spending at retailers was made on payment cards in 2006, compared to 78.5 per cent in December 2015
  • almost four in every five pounds of spending at British retailers is now made through debit and credit cards

The arrival of chip and pin has reduced fraud considerably but since then a new wave of payment technology has emerged, making for faster payments under £30 and shorter queuing times by tapping the card on to a payment reader. Contactless is proving so popular that it accounted for 10% of all card transactions in October 2015.*

As the usage of these ‘tap and pay’ cards expands, fears about fraud are also growing and this includes worries around criminal attempts at contactless fraud. To paint a better picture, an image making the rounds on social media recently raised security fears after a man was photographed on public transport with a POS (point-of-sale) device suggesting it was being used to steal money from people’s bank cards.

Whilst there have been no reports of this type of theft occurring in the UK it has certainly caused quite a stir amongst card users. There’s a fear that electronic pickpocketing could allow thieves to steal your card details or money without ever touching you by using a reader to intercept information within the chip embedded into your card.

How you can protect your contactless card

  • Line it with foil – Lining your wallet or covering your card with foil can help shield the card from being detected by the reader and should cut the risk of contactless card fraud. Consumer group Which? found that this was effective in preventing contactless cards being read.
  • Get an RFID protector – If a foil lined wallet isn’t hip enough or you want something sturdier then you can buy wallets and sleeves specifically built/designed for preventing unauthorised access. These come with RFID blocking technology that protects the chip embedded into your card containing all the sensitive financial and personal data. As an added bonus it may even prevent card clash with your bank and oyster card.
  • Be careful where you keep them – Try to keep your purse or wallet in a separate bag, ideally not in your back pocket and out of sight at all times.
  • Monitor you accounts – Set up account alerts and monitor your statements and credit report regularly in the small chance that you become a victim. That way if your credit card is compromised you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card.
  • Get a card without contactless technology – You can ask the bank for a solely chip and pin card if you’re worried about fraud and want to avoid contactless all together.

Something to bear in mind as technology advances making for new ways to do your banking and make payments is that fraudsters will always be trying to find ways to exploit it so staying alert and taking the precautionary steps to prevent becoming victim is vital.


*Figures based on report by the UK Cards Association.

**Figure based on Barclaycard Contactless