How safe is “tap and pay”?

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Rushing through Woolies to buy your sarmie and snacker bar is so much simpler when you don’t even need to enter a PIN number for your card. Just tap & pay and be on your way!

These cards are so convenient and have made transacting a whole lot quicker. There are however some risks involved but we can easily protect ourselves from the most common forms of electronic pickpocketing.

What could happen?

With each new technology comes a new wave of crime as fraudsters find innovative ways to buck the system. The risk in the past was that physically handing your card to someone meant that they could either jot down your card details behind the counter or using a small device, skim the details off the magnetic strip.

This was largely avoided with chip cards which require your PIN for each transaction, but things seem to have become easier now as fraudsters can potentially steal your credit card information just by brushing past you in a crowd.

By loading a radio-frequency identifier (RFID) reading app on your phone you can steal someone’s credit card via an electronic pickpocket. You don’t need to physically tap the card, theoretically, standing close enough to someone will give your phone access to their credit card number, cardholders name and expiry date. RFID’s won’t be able to read the secret 3-digit code on the back of the card which is usually needed for online transactions, but that is little relief.

Having these details won’t be of much use to any honest citizen, but can be of great value to those who venture on the dark side of the law. Advanced fraudsters could potentially run small transactions off your card as they walk nearby and in most cases you wouldn’t receive SMS notifications and possibly not even notice it.

Tap-transactions are usually limited to R100 but being a victim of this crime may lead to more admin and on-hold-music than you can imagine.

How can you protect yourself?

All is not lost though as the solution is really simple! One can purchase a myriad of RFID-blocking wallets, purses, card sleeves and cell-phone covers with card-holders.

These sleeves are thin little pieces pf plastic which block radio-frequencies and protect your card from being read by any devices. They are unobtrusive and you can easily forget that you even have it. On a more conscious level you should also be aware of those around you when paying with your contactless card. Be careful to pay and return the card to its protective sleeve quickly don’t leave it lying on the cashier counter while packing your groceries.

Also make a habit of checking your card transactions often and look out for any odd transactions.

In closing

There’s no need to worry right away as banks are forever improving their systems and can often identify fraudulent transactions before they are finalised on your card. Do however look at RFID-blocking products as these are cheap and easy to use and may save you a lot of hassle along the way.

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