Now we use cash very rarely. In its place have come credit cards, which we use everywhere, for example in £2 deposit casino UK. Financial experts say that up to 80% of bank cards will be contactless within the next five years. The new payment option is gaining ground, and some banks are already issuing RFID cards exclusively to consumers. Let’s find out what they are and how to secure a contactless payment card. It’s important, because fraudsters are already mastering new ways to steal money.
Contactless payment card: what is it?
What is a contactless card? It looks like an ordinary bank ‘plastic’. It has the same size, the same standard symbols on the surface and a magnetic strip. The difference is the RFID tag. It is a microchip with an antenna, a memory module, a receiver and a transmitter. The memory stores data about the owner. The rest of the equipment ensures that the data needed to make the payment is transmitted. The microchip is not always active; it is activated when a request is received from a payment terminal.
How does a transaction take place?
A contactless card payment is made as follows:
- The merchant activates the payment device (most often the terminal).
- The cardholder brings the card to the payment device in such a way that the microchip is up to 5 cm away from the scanner.
- Within 1-2 seconds the terminal activates the microchip and transmits the required data.
- If the purchase amount is small (determined by the bank or the cardholder) the transaction is done automatically.
- If the amount exceeds the set minimum limit, the terminal sends a request for a pin code.
- Under the second condition, the customer enters the pin code and the purchase amount is deducted from his/her account.
- The terminal prints a receipt confirming the payment transaction.
What are the risks for the contactless cardholder?
Contactless card payment is the common name for the transaction. Different payment systems implement their own wireless transaction technologies and data encryption options. For a payment terminal and an RFID module to communicate and start exchanging data, they use the 13.56 MHz standard.
This is the only vulnerability in the process. Can money be stolen from a contactless card? Theoretically, an attacker only needs equipment to intercept the data. It could interact with the microchip and make the transaction. Given that small amounts of money transfer do not require a pin code, the fraudster can withdraw money from the card unnoticed. Here’s how to protect yourself against card withdrawals.
Advantages and disadvantages of contactless cards for cardholders
The contactless payment card is so in demand because of a large number of advantages. Among them:
- Fast transactions that simplify the payment process. This is especially useful in large supermarkets;
- Possibility to pay by oneself without giving the plastic to the retailer. This enhances security;
- protection against fraudsters, as it is almost impossible to forge a contactless card;
- possibility of fast payment for travel through special turnstiles (for example, in the underground);
- universality: if there is no suitable terminal, payment can be made in a standard way: using a magnetic strip;
- the plastic does not wear out because it does not come into mechanical contact with the terminal.
But there are disadvantages:
- The possibility of debiting amounts without entering a pin code (hence the potential risk of theft). This is a configurable option, but not every user will want to understand such subtleties;
- Risk of losing the card. As long as the owner has not blocked it, anyone who finds it may use it and make a few small purchases (which do not require entering the pin code);
- Insufficient number of terminals: especially in small localities in the country.
How is money stolen from a contactless card?
The only possible option for theft is through standalone readers. Essentially, these are ordinary wireless terminals or specially configured smartphones. An intruder activates the reader, enters a small amount of money and discreetly leans it against the place where the person keeps the wallet. This is realistically done in line at the supermarket cash register, on public transport and elsewhere. The stolen money goes into the perpetrator’s personal account. This is usually done by buying a fictitious legal entity with a terminal and bank details.
In the process, the fraudster encounters difficulties:
- the terminal has to be leaned on, knowing exactly where the card is stored;
- if there is more than one RFID card in the wallet, the terminal will generate an error;
- banks send instant messages about debits of any amount. Having detected the theft in time, the owner of the plastic will block the card and appeal the transaction;
- the fraudster needs to steal from dozens of people a day to earn a lot and recoup the costs.
Nevertheless, the scheme works, and the risks are there. So let’s tell you what is the way to protect your card from fraudsters and list all the possible methods to enhance security.
How do I protect my contactless card?
- The easiest way is to carry it in the same wallet as the other RFID cards. They will all send information to the terminal at the same time when attempting to read it. This will cause the reading to fail. All the fraudster will get is a transaction error message.
- You can protect your card from withdrawals by using a special RFID-locked wallet. It simply prevents the signal from the activated terminal, blocking any attempted theft.
- It is necessary to activate an information service at the bank to inform you about all transactions. This allows you to detect the theft in time to block the plastic.
- Alternatively, you can lower the minimum transaction limit without having to enter a pin code. It will be less convenient to use the card (you will have to enter the code almost every time you make a purchase), but the risk of theft is minimal.
General advice for RFID cardholders
How can I protect my card from being read additionally? Here are some practical tips:
- Pay for it yourself;
- Make sure the amount shown on the terminal is correct before swiping it;
- Monitor the card: It’s easier to steal money from a lost plastic
- install the bank’s mobile app or write down the technical support number in your phonebook. This will help you block the card instantly;
- if you don’t want to spend money on a special wallet, carry the card in your inside pocket together with a metal object: e.g. keys;
- carry the card separately from your smartphone (it can act as a transmitter when funds are stolen).
Contactless bank cards are secure. Attackers have very limited opportunities to steal money. Just follow a few simple guidelines to keep your finances safe and rob fraudsters of all chances.
I am James, a UK-based tech enthusiast and the creative mind behind Mighty Gadget, which I’ve proudly run since 2007. Passionate about all things technology, my expertise spans from computers and networking, to mobile, wearables, and smart home devices.
As a fitness fanatic who loves running and cycling, I also have a keen interest in fitness-related technology, and I take every opportunity to cover this niche on my blog. My diverse interests allow me to bring a unique perspective to tech blogging, merging lifestyle, fitness, and the latest tech trends.
In my academic pursuits, I earned a BSc in Information Systems Design from UCLAN, before advancing my learning with a Master’s Degree in Computing. This advanced study also included Cisco CCNA accreditation, further demonstrating my commitment to understanding and staying ahead of the technology curve.
I’m proud to share that Vuelio has consistently ranked Mighty Gadget as one of the top technology blogs in the UK. With my dedication to technology and drive to share my insights, I aim to continue providing my readers with engaging and informative content.