Sally Hamilton | December 09, 2017

Shield your cash from the secret 'skimmers': How fraudsters can grab your details from your pocket

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:

  • A dishonest employee at a retailer notes down the data to use themselves or to sell on to crooks.
  • Card details are taken at an ATM using a device that copies the information or even steals the card – in some cases cameras record a PIN number as it is tapped in. Some crooks simply use ‘shoulder surfing’ – looking over your shoulder to get details.
  • Conmen send out ‘phishing’ emails or ‘smishing’ texts with links from seemingly authentic retailers that encourage cardholders to tap in their account details. Alan Levine of Wombat Security, a global internet software company, says: ‘These can be disguised as offering you a great discount from a favourite store or a free gift card. ‘But in reality it can end up being the gift that keeps on giving for a fraudster who may go on to steal vital financial information and raid your bank account.’
  • Creating bogus website names. You may think you are logging on to a link to Amazon, for example, but the convincing link takes you to a hoax page that then garners your card details. Hover the cursor over the link to reveal the full website address – which will not look so authentic.
  • Building fake websites. Proficient crooks create their own websites either selling fake items or goods that do not exist – but they will take your money, along with your card details.

Read the article on Daily Mail