In the last few decades there has been quite the revolution in the way we pay for goods and services. First came ‘chip & pin’. It aimed to reduce fraudulent purchases made through swiping a card and forging a signature. Then came contactless. You can make a payment by tapping your card or phone against a card terminal. Recently in the UK the spending limit for contactless card payments was increased from £30 to £45 in April 2020. But how serious is the contactless card security risk?
Whether you are shopping for groceries or paying for petrol, you can use contactless payments. COVID-19 has increased the desire to minimise contact. We use this even more often than before. Whilst contactless payments are quick and convenient, there is a niggling voice in the back of your mind. “Are contactless cards safe?”
What are contactless payments?
What 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. When we don’t fully understand something, it can make us feel vulnerable. So, how do contactless payments actually work?
RFID or NFC
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 too 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. You can make contactless payments for purchases under £45 (in the UK). 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 you lost your debit card or contactless card was 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 contactless card fraud, fraud purchase on credit card. Or you can hear the news that 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 and already more than £20.6 million in 2019. The United States leads as the most credit fraud prone country with 38.6% of reported card fraud losses in 2018. The United States accounted for $9.47 billion in fraud losses in 2018.
It can occur by a criminal getting close to you, and reading your card’s details through a radio frequency identification 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 safe and secure payment? In fact, safe card payment can be implemented quite simply.
Minimising contactless card security risks
Whilst the threat of theft of your card information may seem pretty concerning, there is no cause for paranoia. However, there is a way that you can minimise contactless card security fraud risk.
RFID card protector
The rise in the use of contactless cards has resulted in some 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.
RFIDsecur RFID Blocking Card will protect at the same time RFID cards with 13.56Mhz and 125khz frequency chips.
RFID blocking credit card protector made of ultra-thin material which is suitable for different types of contactless cards – bank cards, id cards, access cards etc.
‘If you are interested in any of the RFID blocking card protectors, take a look at our online-shop.
Edited in may 2020