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Jan 10 2019   10:24AM GMT

UK Finance plays down fraud threat through contactless card skimming

KarlFl40 Profile: KarlFl40

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I wrote about the increase in fraud associated with contactless cards earlier this week following the release of data from Action Fraud.

It told a worrying story with a doubling in the amount or money stolen from contactless card users. £1.18m was reported stolen by fraudsters from contactless users in 2018, compared with £711,000 in 2017.

The Action fraud report described the different ways that fraudsters use contactless to steal money.

The most likely is if a card is stolen and then a criminal uses the card to make payments before the owner realises it is missing. But it also mentioned skimming where data is stolen from contactless cards by fraudsters using devises which enables them to steal money. Action fraud only records the money taken if it is reported to them.

UK Finance, which represents about 300 financial services firms in the UK, has a much broader picture of contactless card fraud as it gets data from the banks rather than just what is reported to it. It wanted to put the latter into context. “No verified incidents of contactless fraud have ever been recorded on cards still in the possession of the original owner,” it said. In other words no money has been taken through contactless technology being skimmed.

UK Finance’s latest figures for the first six months of 2018 show that £8.4m was stolen from people through contactless. This was 3% of total card fraud of £281.2 million which came from a total spend of £31.9bn.

Its figures showed contactless fraud to be 2.5p in every £100 compared to overall card fraud, which is 7.2p in every £100 spent.

But again an important message from the banks through UK Finance is that none of the money taken was the result of contactless cards being skimmed. “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’s not possible to simply ‘steal’ cash from a contactless card. All money must go through a card system.”

But still £8.4m is a lot of money taken from stolen cards is a lot of money.

Good digital banking services should help reduce this. I have an account with a challenger bank which enables me to temporarily disable my card easily on my mobile app if I can find it. No need for a phone call. Also if you find the card again you can just as easily re-enable it or if it is missing cancel it and have a new send to you immediately. But could even more be done to reduce this type of fraud?

UK Finance stressed: “Customers are legally protected against any contactless card fraud losses and will not be left out of pocket.”

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