How to protect your credit card from “tap-and-go” swipes by criminals

Fears over contactless card fraud were reignited in South Africa earlier this year when a video showing a man tapping someone’s back pocket with a credit card terminal was widely shared.

What the video doesn’t show is the “perpetrator” struggling to input a zero amount on the credit card terminal, before finally creating the transaction.

It also doesn’t explain that it may not be easy for a thief to get their hands on a point-of-sale terminal that supports near field communications (NFC).

To get a card payment point-of-sale device, you typically need to deal with a financial institution as a registered business.

A percentage of your sales go to whoever provides the card machine, which means such fraudulent transactions may be traced through the point-of-sale provider.

“Stealing money by tapping an NFC-enabled POS device near enough to a bank client’s card is not likely,” SABRIC said in a statement.

Other contactless card fraud

This doesn’t protect you should a thief steal your card and use it to make payments before you can get your bank to stop it, however.

In the United Kingdom, UK Finance reported earlier this year that contactless card fraud had reached £5.6million, overtaking cheque fraud for the first time.

UK Finance noted that users are fully protected against card fraud and will never be left out of pocket.

Banks in South Africa also implement additional security measures on the NFC-enabled cards they issue, such as randomly requesting your card PIN.

SABRIC and the banks also assure that cloning a contactless card by reading its data with a scanner is not technically feasible.

“Even if a criminal tapped a victim’s contactless card, all they would get is the card number and expiry date. Neither the CVV nor the PIN would be exposed,” SABRIC said.

If these assurances don’t set you at ease, though, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself from contactless card fraud.

Block RFID signals

You can buy a specially-made wallet lined with a material that blocks radio-frequency identification (RFID) signals from picking up the payment card you store in it.

A much cheaper option, however, is to do it yourself with aluminium foil (tinfoil).

Lining your wallet with tinfoil effectively blocks readers from picking up any cards stored inside them.

Confuse the reader

Another simple trick is to store two contactless cards next to one another in your wallet.

Placing your Gautrain card on top of your bank card, for example, is enough to confuse card readers and make it difficult to read the data stored on either card.

Anti-fraud vigilance

In addition to these safety measures, the usual anti-fraud tips apply.

  1. Do not store your PIN with your card. Don’t write down your PIN on the card.
  2. Always keep sight of your card. Even though your chip and NFC details can’t be cloned, your card’s mag stripe is still vulnerable to cloning.
  3. Register for SMS notifications from your bank.
  4. Check your credit card and bank statements every month to monitor for fraudulent transactions.

Now read: Free electronic transactions and credit card swipes planned by new South African bank

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How to protect your credit card from “tap-and-go” swipes by criminals