In the last few decades there has been quite the revolution in the way we pay for goods and services. First came 'Chip and Pin', which aimed to reduce fraudulent purchases made through swiping a card and forging a signature. Then came contactless, where payments under £30 could be made by tapping your card or phone against a card terminal. Suddenly, whether you are shopping for groceries, purchasing drinks in a bar, or paying for petrol, the service clerk will often ask: "Is contactless okay?" Of course you say yes. After all, contactless payments are quick and convenient, but there is a niggling voice in the back of you mind, wondering how safe it is.
What Are Contactless Payments?
What even are contactless payments? How does financial information get from your credit card to the reader? Contactless payments can be a concept that is hard to comprehend, and when we don't fully understand something – particularly when it comes to our financial information – it can make us feel vulnerable. So, how do contactless payments actually work?
Your contactless credit card has a chip within it, as well as a tiny antenna. The card reader makes connection to the card, with radio waves, much like you tune a radio to your favourite station, if you don't tune it right or are to far away you can't listen to it. The difference is that when the card reader sends radio waves, the credit card uses some of the energy it receives to power the chip, so that the credit card can talk back to the reader. This process is known as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or Near Field Communication NFC or contactless for short! Your card details are transferred to the card reader, which picks up the signal emitted from your card to process your payment. Contactless payments can only be made for purchases under £30. There is usually no such limit if you use contactless with your smartphone as an extra layer of security is required, such as fingerprint ID or PIN.
If your card is lost or stolen, someone could use it to make small payments, although the number of contactless payments that can be made in one day is limited. If your contactless card goes missing you should freeze it, or report it immediately to avoid contactless fraud.
You can't open a newspaper, read a magazine, or watch the news without seeing a story about credit card fraud, personal details being stolen or credit card data being hacked. It seems like it is getting harder and harder to keep our sensitive information safe. How exactly can we keep the information of our credit cards safe, if they are emitting radio waves for anyone to intercept?
Unfortunately, contactless card fraud is on the rise. Whilst not at the levels of credit card fraud generally, the believed losses to contactless card fraud were £5.6 million in the UK in 2017. It can occur by a criminal getting close to you, and reading your card's details through a card reader concealed within their clothing.
With contactless card fraud on the rise, you may be considering using your smartphone to make payments. This opens up additional concerns. Expensive phones brought into the open in a busy environment provides an opportunity for thieves. Furthermore, if you drop your smartphone whilst juggling shopping, a purchase for just a few pounds, may cost you hundreds.
So, what can you do to make your contactless payments safe and secure?
Minimising Contactless Payment Risk
Whilst the threat of theft of your card information may seem pretty concerning, there is no need for extreme worry just yet. However, there is a way that you can minimise your risk of contactless card fraud.
The rise in the use of contactless cards has resulted in some design developments from accessory brands to keep your information safe. One such brand is RFID-Cloaked, who have created a range of products which prevents both bank cards and security passes from being read by a wide range of radio frequencies. Their new RFIDsecur Wallet, offers premium protection for your contactless cards, as well as having a stylish, minimalist design. Additionally, cards never need to be taken out of the cardholder, which avoids thieves using distraction techniques. Your card is contained within a compartment that can be slid up to make a payment, and automatically returns it to the secure holder. This revolutionary card holder, will change the way you make contactless payments, whilst keeping you safe and secure.
If you are interested in any of the RFID-blocking products from RFID Cloaked, take a look at their Kickstarter Campaign, and be the first to know about any new designs. Plus you can get one of their ingenious RDIFsecur Contactless Blocking Cards for just £2.50.