Contactless cards are the impatient shopper’s best friend and now account for a fifth of all purchases in shops by plastic.
But beware when hitting the high street this Christmas as they are also proving popular with fraudsters.
Though official reported fraud figures for this type of card – which allows purchases to be made simply by tapping the plastic on a payment machine – suggest they account for just 1 per cent of overall card fraud, this hides the true losses, according to industry experts.
Banks reassure customers that spending on stolen contactless cards by crooks is kept in check because each transaction is limited to £30 at most. Then after a few purchases the PIN is demanded.
But this ignores the losses made when a card’s details are stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases online or abroad – and this can happen without your knowledge.
Devious crooks use cheap card readers using radio waves to lift details from the contactless chips while standing close to shoppers.
Thieves can harvest important information on the plastic including the card number and name. They can also do this using a free app downloaded on to an Android phone.
A recent survey found that more than a third of contactless cardholders have had direct or indirect experience of fraud or identify theft in the past year.
Nearly 60 per cent of this group believe contactless technology has made them more vulnerable.
IT executive Aggie Leighton (pictured above) believes this is what happened to her.
Despite being constantly on her guard – and IT savvy – she had her debit card ‘skimmed’ with the details copied and used on a £700 fraudulent spending spree.
Aggie, 36, only realised there was a problem when she unexpectedly slipped into overdraft. She says: ‘My bank alerted me and when I saw there were transactions made on my card in Chicago I knew something was wrong – I have never been to the US, never mind Chicago.’
The fraudster had tested her card at a Seven-Eleven store making a low value purchase for $5. When that succeeded the crook went on to confidently spend serious amounts on petrol, a restaurant meal and groceries.
Aggie, from West London, says: ‘The bank told me it was likely my contactless card had been skimmed.’ She had used this to pay for public transport around the City.
She adds: ‘I am always careful to keep my card in sight so I was shocked this happened.’
Happily, Aggie got the money back from her bank – Barclays –within a fortnight but the experience has made her wary. She says: ‘I now keep a low balance on my current account and put any excess cash into a savings account. I am more mindful of keeping an eye on my cards.’
Card fraud tricks
A card can be ‘skimmed’, have the number and cardholder’s name and, often the three-digit security number taken, in the following ways: