Friday, 19 February 2016

How to Protect Yourself Quickly & Inexpensively from POS Scamming

 Are you aware that devices exist that are able to read your debit & credit cards, passport and even driver’s license then use that data without you even being aware? 

Unfortunately, RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology that is used to track sensitive data in many of today’s portable identifiers (e.g. credit and debit cards) can be easily read by a point-of-sale (POS) card reader without you ever realising that you have been scammed… until you check your bank account, that is!

It’s a very frightening thought but, sadly, this is real and it’s starting to happen on a daily basis on our streets, on public transport and in our shopping centres.

The scam is based on relatively new contactless “touch-pay” technology that allows you to pay for things simply by touching your card to an appropriately enabled card reader and pay for items without the need to enter a PIN.  This technology has been brought in to save time and effort for consumers however, many of us are unaware that we have this technology as we all appear to have been “opted in” by our banks without our permission.  

Now here comes the scary part:  enterprising scammers can buy point-of-sale (POS) card readers for very little, programme the card readers to accept payments of under £30 (these need no approval), then wander indiscriminately through stores or other crowded places as they steal from consumers who are completely unaware.

RFID enabled items that many of us already possess include (but are not limited to) debit cards, credit cards, passports, identity cards, driver’s licenses, Oyster cards, travel cards and ski-passes.  Many work-related cards such as passes for electronic ‘swipe card’ door entry systems also have RFID technology embedded in them. In fact, it is very likely that many items you carry with you every day are RFID enabled – and often without your knowledge.

Do not assume that you are safe, just because you keep your debit and credit cards in your possession at all times.  You may not know exactly what information is stored on your cards, but is it really worth the risk of allowing someone else to read your personal data without your permission or knowledge?

Unfortunately, making it easy to pay for things via radio waves also makes it easy for thieves to help themselves to your hard-earned cash.  If you carry any of the afore-mentioned cards with an RFID chip, you need to be aware of this scam. Thankfully, fore-warned is fore-armed so thwarting would-be criminals is easy - once you know how. 

The cheapest way to avoid being hit is to simply line your wallet or purse with aluminium foil which cunningly blocks the RFID chips from being read against your will.

If you are looking for something a bit more classy, there are a whole host of different types of sleeves, wallets, purses and ID card holders and shields on the market, that are designed specifically to offer protection against unauthorised access to contactless technology. These can be very easily and inexpensively purchased via sites such as Amazon, eBay or even on your local high street and they cost from as little as a couple of Pounds each, whilst offering a tremendous measure of protection. 

Another option, for those that are not contactless payment fans (like me!) is that one is able to request a non contactless  payment option when ordering new credit or debit cards from the bank.  

The realisation that someone is able help themselves to your money so very quickly and easily is a rather sobering thought.  As always, we must do what we can to protect ourselves from these scammers.

Modern technology is often excellent but unfortunately it is not always used with good intentions.   Please make sure that you share this post with as many of your friends, family and peers as possible so that we can stay one step ahead and protect ourselves from these criminals. 

1 comment:

  1. In order to make a transaction on one of your cards, the Scammer must have registered as a Merchant. This is not a trivial process and is heavily checked and managed by the credit card banks as they are liable for fraudulent use that is notified. If you don't already, you should make it a habit to check your statement regularly for unexplained transactions. Also, if you have more than one RFID card in your wallet/purse, then the POS device will register a conflict and fail to read. In addition, no fraud such as this has yet been registered in the UK, so is this worrying over nothing? Do we really want to go around with aluminum foil sticking out of our wallets? Make your own minds up.

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