Contactless Cards – are they safe?

Contactless debit cards have been in use in Ireland for about 6  years  – and they are becoming more popular as more retailers accept them. Contactless Visa payments now account for one in three face-to-face Visa transactions in Ireland

There were a few reports in the media in the past couple of years about theft from contactless cards.  These so called “news” items seemed to be just rehashed  from various social media postings . They warned  people of the possibility of theft by criminals  using point of sale card readers to scan pockets in crowded places to take money from contactless cards as if the card holder had purchased something.

This type of card theft is very , very unlikely as it would require the thief to have both a contactless card terminal  AND an  account with a Merchant Acquirer.

It is not possible for a criminal  to just scan a contactless card and have the money go straight to a bank account.

Merchant Acquirers are the middlemen between retailers and the card schemes (such as VISA)  .  They process the card transactions, deduct any fees and charges and eventually pay the balance into the  retailers bank account. Before a retailer is accepted , they will  need to show the acquirer that they are businesses or sole traders.
The Acquirers issue the terminals and  monitor transactions and reports of theft.
If they do issue a terminal and account to someone who then decides to goes on to try and become a “contactless” thief-  the  Acquirer will soon realise theft is occurring as they will get receive fraudulent transaction reports and have to pay recharges.  They will be able to stop accepting  payments from that “retailer” and disable the terminal.   and are likely to have plenty of information to help find the thief.   If any such fraudulent transactions somehow do occur then the liability sits with the merchant acquirer.

It would be an awful lot of work and risk for a criminal to bother doing this for the chance of a few €30 transactions .  Criminals with that level of knowledge have much easier ways of getting our money.

There is one obvious danger with contactless cards though – if they are stolen anyone can use them to buy stuff. Even if you report the card as stolen and get it cancelled apparently it is still possible for the thief to use the contactless function in shops for many months after the card is cancelled. It is even more important that people check bank statements for transactions they don’t recognise. Of course  – you can always request your bank or card issuer to remove the contactless option if you don’t feel it is secure.

(All banks will refund all funds that are taken fraudulently.)

One thought on “Contactless Cards – are they safe?

  1. If your contactless card is stolen it can be used for the purchasing goods.
    Given today’s mobile phone technology I believe it would be more beneficial to all card holders to avert all card fraud to have the following.
    1. Merchant starts transaction
    2. VISA sends txt to card owner with requests details (no charge)
    3. Card owner accept charge and enter password.
    4. Transaction completed

    Can be processed in 4 seconds

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