As contactless debit cards become more common, fraud risks that take advantage of this technology are also on the rise.
MasterCard, Visa and various banks have pushed contactless cards as the latest and greatest payment option, allowing you to tap your card against a reader instead of swiping or inserting them.
But the technology and features of these tap-and-go debit cards have also led to an increase in some forms of debit card fraud, particularly when it comes to card theft and data hacking.
To help you make the most of this technology while still keeping your card protected, here we take a look at the two biggest security issues and what you can do about them.
Contactless Card Theft
While any card theft is cause for concern, one feature of contactless debit cards makes them particularly appealing to criminals: both MasterCard PayPass and Visa PayWave cards let you make transactions of $100 or less without the need for PIN verification, so you really can “tap-and-go”.
Unfortunately, that also means card thieves can use stolen credit cards for multiple, smaller transactions without worrying about having the right verification details.
According to police in Victoria and Queensland, this particular feature is leading to an increase in card theft and crime across the country.
Victorian police recently reported that contactless card fraud has contributed to an 11,600 increase in deceptions, with the state’s Chief Commissioner Ken Lay saying “tap-and-go” deception crimes were “chewing up police resources”.
“Credit cards are being stolen from cars, they’re being stolen from houses and they’re being stolen from mailboxes,’’ Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan has added in comments to the press.
‘‘Quite often these offences are occurring overnight so those cards are being used even before the victim has actually woken up.’’
Similarly, the head of fraud and cybercrime at Queensland Police is worried the rapid take-up of contactless cards will encourage more card theft as well as more account breaches.
In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, he says the widespread use of these cards could lead to an increase in property theft because they are so easy to use for fraudulent transactions.
“It might have said Mrs Smith and the person holding it is a 17-year-old boy, but the merchant doesn’t hold or inspect it.”
While card companies and banks have said there is no hard evidence of an increase in security issues due to contactless cards, the concerns raised highlight how important it is to be aware of security issues.
So how can you stay protected against debit card (or credit card) theft and fraudulent transactions of less than $100?
Police and banks have recommend regularly checking your letterbox for mail from your bank, checking the expiry date on your debit card so that you know when to expect a new one and keeping track of where your debit card is at all times – and reporting any stolen cards immediately.
Hi-Tech Contactless Card Hacking
Straightforward theft is not the only vulnerability contactless debit cards have: the transmission technology used by these cards could also make it easier for hackers to steal our data.
Recent research from Edith Cowan University (ECU), for example, has shown that some devices can interact with the radio frequency identification microchip that makes the contactless cards work and potentially gain access to card data as a result.
As WA Today recently reported, current technology “would allow interaction within close proximity of those carrying the tap-and-go cards, which would allow card details to be obtained.”
“The technology required would be obvious but could be hidden within a large briefcase.”
According to a lecturer at ECU, magnetic metal such as high quality tin foil is the “only thing that could block signals between contactless bank cards and other devices”.
Some companies have already started manufacturing and promoting “RFID blocking” wallets and cardholders. Although the effectiveness of these products is yet to be officially proven, a quick search on sites like eBay comes up with hundreds of different options.
But it is worth noting that radio frequency hacking is not currently very common – the technology required and the “large briefcase” needed to hide it, as well as the close proximity needed means that it is still an awkward way to steal debit card details.
Instead, this risk is one to be aware of in the future, as more sophisticated technology could make this kind of security issue a bigger problem.
While contactless debit cards are definitely a convenient option, it is important to be aware of different security risks and protection options. By staying up to date with current concerns and features, you will be able to make sure your debit card works for you – but not for criminals.