Contactless Fraud: Changing Payment Methods Mean Increased Risks

We have seen many changes in retail since the start of the year. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that shopping looks and feels very different for most of us. Limits to the numbers of shoppers allowed in store, as well as one-way systems and rules about spacing have had an impact on the retail store environment and changed the ways in which we interact with other customers.

Along with these physical changes when out and about, many retailers have increased the limit on contactless purchases to make it easier and safer when reaching the checkouts. The standard limit is normally £30, but with consumers using the contactless function of their card more frequently, and for larger purchases, this has been increased by many businesses to £45. By paying using a contactless credit or debit card, or by swiping your phone or watch, you can avoid physical contact with other shoppers and help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

With changes to the way we do things, and easier usage of contactless payment methods, scammers are utilising the opportunity to gain access to our bank accounts with easier ways of gaining access to our money.

Contactless scams

There are different types of reported contactless scams, with the convenient use of contactless technology making it easier for scammers to use your information to pay with your money. With the steps card providers are taking to protect consumers, the reality is that there are only a few ways that contactless fraud can actually take place.

Scams can be carried out blatantly by a dishonest shop assistant using a card reader. These scammers have devices that read the information on your card, but normally requires them to take the card into their possession.

If you are faced with a retailer who removes the card from your person, you should ask questions about why this is happening. Do not allow cards to be taken out of your sight. Many retailers have protections in place, and train staff not to handle customer cards for this very reason.

You should check the amount displayed on the screen on the card reader, and check any receipts when you receive them.

A Common Myth

There have been stories of other scammers using proximity in public places to read contactless cards through their target’s clothes. This is reported to be done using a contactless reader, and in instances where this has supposedly happened, targets were reported to be in crowded places.

The UK Card Association has debunked this form of obtaining contactless data as a myth due to the complex set up that would be required to take any payments. It does however pay to protect your cards and keep them in places where they cannot physically be removed from your person.

Opportunists may use stolen cards to commit contactless fraud.

Card Provider Protection

Contactless payments are offered the same protections as payments made using a chip and PIN device. You will not be liable for any fraud carried out on your accounts, as long as there is no evidence of negligence, such as allowing someone else to use your card.

If you do notice fraudulent or suspicious activity on your account, you should contact the bank or card provider directly and explain the situation. You should also do this for lost or stolen cards. By reporting this as soon as possible, the card will be blocked, and any attempts to defraud should be halted.

Many card providers have additional protections in place when there are £100 worth of payments made on a card within five payments. This can block the card and stop scammers being able to spend your money as they please. In these instances, you will be required to enter your PIN to continue making further payments using contactless technology.

You should also remember that your PIN number should not be shared with others.

By remaining vigilant when using contactless technology, we can reduce the risk of being defrauded at the checkouts. have compiled top tips for keeping your contactless transactions safe.

  • If you notice your cards are missing – report them ASAP. You can do this by contacting your bank or card provider, many of which have lines open 24 hours a day to do this.
  • Monitor bank accounts and credit files – Monitor accounts for unusual activity. Many banks will automatically contact you for larger transactions, but smaller amounts may go unchecked. Check online banking and statements for transactions that you have not authorised.
  • Do not allow others to handle your card – It’s called ‘contactless for a reason’ – Keep an eye on your card when you are using it. Devices can be used to copy data from contactless cards. Make sure you know where your card is at all times.
  • Storage Safety – Keep your cards in safe places, avoiding open handbags or pockets with ease of access. If you want to be extra careful, you can line your purse, wallet or cardholder with material that will block any scamming devices.
  • Check Your Receipts – Make sure the correct amount has been debited from your contactless card after each transaction.

If you believe you have been the target of a contactless scam, or would like more advice on scams in general, or any consumer matter, you can contact on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

You can report suspected scams and suspicious activity 24 hours a day by visiting and using our Quick Reporting Tool.

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