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Contactless payments: How likely is someone charging your card without you knowing?

Contactless payments are certainly more convenient than traditional ones.

person making a contactless payment
Image: Unsplash

Contactless payments are a modern world’s wonder.

In most everyday situations, you don’t need a wallet – you can pay with a small plastic card or even your phone, reducing the number of accessories you need to carry.

Cashless payments are surely convenient, but are they secure? Wallets and cash can be stolen, but what about cards and mobile gadgets?

Although contactless payments rule the modern world, they introduce a new kind of vulnerability.

The swipe scam

woman swiping her credit card
Image: Unsplash

Debit and credit cards are commonly used in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and ATMs. They are considered safer than cash, but are they?

Cards can be stolen, yes, but online banking makes it harder to profit from theft – most people impose limits on their accounts so that no one can withdraw all their money.

Additionally, cards can be easily canceled online.

This doesn’t mean cards are secure, though. Some come with fraud protection, but some don’t, making swipe scams possible.

What is a swipe scam? It’s a way of stealing credit/debit card information by rigging card readers used in stores, ATMs, etc.

Criminals install illegal devices on readers to record card data. The information can then be used to:

  • steal money from bank accounts,
  • create new cards with the victim’s name on them,
  • steal victims’ identities,
  • sell the data on the black market.

How to spot a rigged card reader?

It is vital to recognize card readers that may have been tampered with. Always visually inspect any device that uses your credit or debit card.

Look out for scratches or protruding elements that seem out of place – don’t use readers that look modified, and report them to the workers.

Are phones more secure than cards?

woman swiping her card
Image: Unsplash

Using smartphones for payments is even more convenient than using cards – most people always have their phones with them anyway.

Mobile apps used for payments are quite safe, as developers do their best to combat fraud, but theft is still possible.

To use a payment application, you must link it to your credit or debit card. This means your phone will contain your personal information – if you lose your device, your data will be at risk. That’s why you should make sure your phone is secure:

Is Apple Pay susceptible to fraud?

When it comes to iPhones and other Apple products, they are considered the most secure (compared to Android devices and others).

Installing malware or hacking an iPhone is difficult and rare but not unheard of.

Apple secures Apple Wallet well, but criminals can be innovative, too. They look for loopholes and can technically steal your banking data without breaking into your device. How?

  • Paying online over unsecured Wi-Fi. Public networks are great because they can connect you to the internet when you don’t have mobile data, but they come with risks. Some are not properly secured, meaning hackers can eavesdrop and intercept the passing data.
  • Social engineering. Sometimes people are the weakest link – and criminals know it. They use phishing e-mails to convince their victims to visit fake websites and enter their credentials. The stolen information can then be used to log into banking accounts or commit identity theft.

How to avoid contactless payment fraud?

  1. Don’t use public networks or use a VPN. As mentioned above, public Wi-Fi networks are not to be trusted, especially when it comes to sensitive information. But what if you find yourself in a situation where using public Wi-Fi is a necessity? You can use a VPN tool that will encrypt your data and make it useless for potential eavesdroppers. Good VPNs come with additional features – they can act as an ad blocker, which will further protect you from tracking and annoying ads.
  1. Use card limits. Never leave your bank account without a withdrawal or payment limit. Without one, a potential thief or hacker could use your information and steal all your savings in one transaction.
  2. Double-check every website. Always look twice at every website that asks for your personal information. Some scammers fake websites and make them look similar to the ones that are well-known and trusted. They may also trick people into using these fraudulent sites through phishing campaigns.

Contactless payments are certainly more convenient than traditional ones. They are also usually quite secure, but technology doesn’t solve everything.

Don’t blindly trust any device, app, or website that claims to be secure, but use common sense and critical thinking to stay safe.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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