Contactless card fraud in the UK touched £1.18m in 2018
Contactless card fraud in the UK touched £1.18m in 2018

Threats

Contactless card fraud in the UK touched £1.18m in 2018

Britons lost over £1.18m to contactless card fraud last year compared to £711,000 in the previous year, Action Fraud has revealed.

In October last year, payments technology firm Worldpay revealed that contactless card payments in the UK overtook chip-and-pin card payments for the first time ever, rising to 52% of all in-store transactions compared to just 30% in July 2017.

Between 2014 and 2017, the total number of contactless bank cards in circulation in the UK rose from 59 million to 119 million, and their ease of use contributes to such a large rate of adoption. However, despite being issued by all the major banks in the UK, contactless payment technology isn't completely fool-proof and has been compromised by criminals in the past.

Contactless card fraud incidents doubled between 2017 & 2018

Cyber criminals are taking advantage of the fact that consumers do not need to punch in PIN numbers to authenticate transactions as well as the fact that the upper limit for contactless transactions is only £30. Stolen cards can be quickly used to make a number of small contactless transactions before they are blocked and card owners are less likely to detect such small transactions when checking their account balances.

According to Action Fraud, there were as many as 2,739 reported incidents of contactless card fraud in the UK between January and October last year, compared to just 1,440 such incidents in the previous year. Over 50% of all instances of contactless card fraud between 2013 and 2018 took place in 2018 alone, and the average amount lost per instance was £657 last year compared to £493 in 2017.

"Fraudsters will do all they can to steal your card and account details and take money from your account … If you’ve seen unusual activity on your bank statements, such as purchases you don’t remember making or cash withdrawals from places you don’t remember visiting, tell your bank immediately," said a spokesperson from Action Fraud.

According to David Orme, Senior Vice President of IDEX Biometrics, biometric card authentication could go a long way in reducing the menace of contactless card fraud in the future.

"Biometric authentication, including fingerprint recognition, is a field increasingly recognised as holding the key to contactless card fraud prevention. Linking individuals directly to the card by using their fingerprint, users can be safe in the knowledge that they are the only person that can use the card, as ultimately there is nothing more secure, or personal, than a fingerprint.

"People making contactless payments will no longer have to compromise security for convenience and will be able to enjoy the benefits of limitless payments, with the £30 transaction cap becoming a thing of the past," he said.

Contactless cards totally secure: UK Finance

Responding to Action Fraud's figures on the rise in contactless card fraud, UK Finance, which represents nearly 300 banking and financial services firms, said that it is impossible for anyone to skim money from a contactless card and the transactions using contactless cards can only take place through a card system.

“There have never been any verified reports of fraudsters taking money from someone’s contactless card just by bumping into them in the street or on public transport ever happening in the UK,” it said.

It added that of £281.2 million lost to card fraud in 2018, only £8.4m was lost to thieves who stole contactless cards and contactless card fraud amounted to only 3% of total card fraud last year.

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Jay Jay

Jay has been a technology reporter for almost a decade. When not writing about cybersecurity, he writes about mobile technology for the likes of Indian Express, TechRadar India and Android Headlines

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