Tuesday 20 February 2018

Consumers warned of scam with contactless bank cards

Contactless card
Contactless card
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Consumers have been warned about a new scam which targets people with contactless bank cards.

It involves thieves wandering near people with a point-of-sale device - the same as those used in shops. The thief enters a price lower than €30, taps the device against a person's pockets, and then the consumer is charged.

The scam works best in busy shops, packed pubs, sports events and concerts.

Most banks here have now replaced old Laser cards with contactless debt cards. To make a contactless payment, a person simply needs to tap their card near a point-of-sale terminal, or 'tap-and-go'.

Contactless payments do not require a signature or a PIN (personal identification number). NFC (near field communication) is used for the card to communicate with the point-of-sale device. The scam can also be carried out by using the NFC function on a mobile phone.

Consumers have been warned to be wary. Those who keep their card somewhere conspicuous, like their back pocket, are most at risk.

The limit on contactless cards was raised from €15 to €30 in the last Budget, in a bid to encourage consumers to stop using cash.


Policy adviser to the Consumers' Association Dermott Jewell said when the cards were introduced there were fears scams like this would emerge.

"There was always a fear that something like this would happen. There is no real way for consumers to stop it," he said.

Bankers' body the Irish Banking and Payments Federation said it was not aware of any incidence of the scam happening in this country yet.

"As with all card scams, we would reiterate the importance of consumers being vigilant at all times and protecting their cards as they would their cash or other valuables," a spokeswoman said.

Card payments company Visa insisted that, since the introduction of contactless payments, card fraud has remained at historically low levels.

It said the point-of-sale contactless card scam was difficult to undertake - not least because the fraudster would need to be very close to the cardholder and behave in a way likely to arouse suspicion. If a consumer is a victim of fraud, they should contact their issuing bank immediately, Visa added.

Electronic security specialist Brian Honan said wallets are now on sale that have been designed to block such attacks.

Irish Independent

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