The Danger of Contactless Cards


Credit and debit cards that you just have to wave near to a payment terminal rather than feeding them into the terminal are increasingly common.

They do save time and you don’t have to remember your pin number but they are usually limited to a maximum of about £30.

Q. What are the dangers?

They are prone to all the normal dangers of credit and debit cards (people secretly swiping them or double charging etc.) but additionally they can be scanned and charged by scammers with portable units that can be bought on the Internet.

If you’re paying at a supermarket till and a person walks by at the right time with a “skimmer” they can charge your card and you don’t know anything about it until the bill arrives.

Plus once they’ve skimmed your card – they’ve got the details and make a fake card with your details and keep charging it until you phone your card supplier and tell them to stop your card.

Q.What can you do to protect against ‘skimming’?

An aluminium card holder will prevent someone skimming your card while it’s in your pocket but won’t be of any help when you’re paying a bill. These are available at lots of places and on eBAY etc. for a few pounds.

Alternatively you can wrap your cards or wallet in aluminium foil.

There is also a new technology answer to this problem. It’s called Skimguard.

This works by detecting incoming signals to your cards and it blocks those signals. Doesn’t even need batteries.

Online and Offline

The contactless cards have two modes of operation ‘online’ and ‘offline’

When payments are processed online, the card and payment machine immediately communicate with the customer’s bank. If a lost or stolen card has been cancelled, this will be flagged immediately and the payment disallowed.

Offline payments are stored in batches by retailers and processed online to the bank at a later point, sometimes a few days later with smaller stores. This can allow a thief buying goods on a stolen card to go undetected for up to a few days after the card has been reported stolen.

Protect your contactless cards and use them safely.

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