Published: July 5, 2016

Contactless card fraud is a growing concern amongst finance and security professionals. The threat is often downplayed but it is growing and likely will continue to do so as the technology becomes more widely used. Presently, over 88 million contactless cards are in use in the UK, with almost £1.6 billion being spent per month. The exact levels of fraud are unknown as much of the information is not released for fear of facilitating fraudsters.

The now widely-used contactless payments, whilst hugely convenient, are beginning to pose more of a threat to consumers. MasterCard and Visa now permit transactions of up to £20 and £30 respectively for single transactions where a pin code is never required. Whilst convenient, the degradation of security standards is facilitating a sharp rise in fraud as cards are taken from unattended bags or pockets whilst employees relax in social settings. The cards are then used to purchase £30 worth of cigarettes several times from nearby supermarkets, meaning a bill of several hundred pounds is quickly racked up before anybody suspects a thing.

Due to the technology’s convenient design, even once cancelled transactions can still be made on contactless cards for several days after the cancellation, with card owners responsible for reporting the fraudulent payments that appear if they want their money refunded.

This fraud is anticipated by industry leaders to rise. During the summer months, as more people frequent pubs and restaurants after work often outside in busy places, there will be more opportunities for fraudsters as bags and jackets are left unattended by relaxing staff.

How best to counter this threat?

The best practice is for businesses to advise staff of the threats and issue a reminder to maintain awareness of their situation, even whilst in a relaxed, social setting. Virtual threats remain active due to its perpetrators in the real world, even in perceived relatively safe environments, and the innovative technologies that provide convenience also present new opportunities for fraudsters, who prey on unsuspecting or unaware victims. With summer events like Wimbledon and Euro 2016 underway and the Rio Olympics expected to attract many viewers to public gatherings, companies can empower staff with their security and save hundreds of pounds and many hours of hassle for both the individuals and business where corporate cards and senior management are at risk.

For advice from our risk team or to find out about Pilgrims short and effective training courses, hardwiring staff with the skills to recognise and mitigate risks both inside and out of the workplace, contact us on +44 (0)1483 228 786.