Fraud Awareness Contactless Cards

“Since its launch the technology has moved on at a rapid pace. Contactless payments can be made from technology such as mobile phones through to smart wristbands.”

There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic has altered daily life dramatically since the beginning of 2020.  Along with lockdowns, social distancing and the use of masks we have all been asked to use our cards to pay for goods and services instead of physical cash.

Although this is a major shift in how we use cash, it may surprise you to know that as early as 2018 contactless transactions had taken over chip and pin as the dominant form of card payment. Cash, it seems, is no longer king.


According to Finance UK,  total spending on all debit and credit cards reached £829 billion in 2019, with 22 billion transactions made during the year. Interestingly fraud losses on UK-issued cards totalled £620.6 million in 2019, an eight percent decrease from £671.4 million in 2018 and out of that total contactless card fraud remains low, with £20.6 million in losses. 

What Are Contactless Cards


They are the same debit and credit cards we have been using since the 1980’s however in 2007 our cards got an upgrade. Here in the UK, Barclaycard integrated a small chip and an antenna into cards.  This chip can communicate with a card reader and complete small value transactions instantly, without the input of a pin.

Since its launch, the technology has moved on at a rapid pace. Contactless payments can be made from technology such as mobile phones through to smart wristbands.

What security is in place with contactless payments?

All the major banks say that contactless payments use the same level of security as a traditional Chip & PIN transaction and have certain features that limit fraud.  Although they do not go into detail on what the certain features are, they do say that they employ real-time fraud detection systems to detect potentially fraudulent activity, for any credit or debit card payment transaction.  Basically, this means that all contactless payments are being monitored and if the transaction meets a known fraud pattern the transaction will be blocked.

The other weapon the bank has against fraud is your PIN.  Have you ever tried to pay for a contactless payment only for it to decline and then had to switch to chip and pin to complete the transaction?  This is because the bank is checking you still have your card!  After a certain amount of consecutive contactless payments, the system will ask for your pin.  So, if some ne’er do well steals your card and goes shopping they cannot spend too much of your hard-earned cash before they are stopped.  The banks used to say that it was 6 consecutive contactless payments, however in September 2019 the second part of the EU’s payment directive kicked in. This means that your pin is required when 5 contactless payments have been made or your cumulative payments reach £130.

What happens if someone goes spending with your card?

Most of the high street banks operate a fraud protection guarantee that specifically covers for contactless payments. This typically puts you back to the position you had before the fraud. It is worth checking with your bank what protection is in place.
Finance UK actually states “Victims of unauthorised payment card fraud are legally protected against losses. Industry analysis indicates that banks and card companies refund customers in over 98 per cent of cases”.

Can someone scan my card to steal cash?

There have been reports that on the London underground people have had their cards scanned and subsequent money lost.  However, this was proved to be false.  Any thief would need a legitimate business account and a registered card reader to take any payments.   Then they would need to be close, – really close- to your card (almost touching it). Card readers will not work if they encounter other objects, such as other cards, keys, and phones.

These facts have not stopped scare mongering around contactless card thefts and a rising number of companies and products reporting to prevent such theft! (I will leave it up to you to decide if buying such products is a theft in itself)

Contactless fraud has increased..

Whilst it is true that the banks have managed to reduce card fraud in the UK, fraud attributed to contactless cards has doubled over the last few years. This Is simply because more cards in circulation have a contactless chip and so are lumped under the contactless category.  UK Finance told the independent in 2019 that “No contactless fraud has been recorded on cards still in the possession of the original owner.” So, for card/contactless fraud to take place the card has been placed in the possession of someone else.

What To Look Out For


The biggest thing to remember is not to give your card to someone else. As we have seen fraudsters need your card and are finding very clever ways of ways of obtaining it. Here are some of the most common tactics:

ATM card entrapment (otherwise known as a Lebanese loop, shoulder surfing and PIN pad cameras.)

This is when the cash machine. is compromised by a fraudster with the purpose of obtaining your card. Typically, the cash machine may have been fitted with a device that is designed to capture your card.  You would input your pin as normal (with it being recorded by the fraudster), once the transaction is completed you are unable to retrieve your card. Thinking it has a fault you walk away or go and seek help. The fraudster then removes the device that obtains your card.  Over the years I have seen cash machines with false fronts, fake keypads and tiny cameras that are designed to record your pin presses. I have also witnessed shoulder surfing where a fraudster would stand behind you watching your keypad presses

Distraction thefts

Techniques vary from the simple ‘you’ve dropped something’, right through to more complex scams. Fraudsters are becoming more brazen and skilled in obtaining your cash.
Here is an example of a more complex distraction scam that did the rounds recently.
A courier delivered a parcel and told the recipient that extra payment was required. The recipient attempted to argue that no extra payment was required however the courier span a very convincing story as to why the payment was needed. The courier then handed the recipient a card reader to receive payment. The only issue is that unknown to the recipient the card reader was fake and did not work. After a few attempts the courier told yet another convincing story, in that both the card and the card reader needed to be returned to the van. The recipient agreed and the courier did indeed return to their van only to use a second reader that was fully working and relieve the card holder of £90 quid. The courier then returned the card to the owner and went on his way. The card holder only realised they had been conned once their statement had arrived. The recipient called the delivery company who had no knowledge of the driver, the police were then called, and the fraud was logged. The bank was then informed and took some convincing that it was fraud as the recipient had willingly handed over the card. In the end the bank backed down and refunded the recipient.
This illustrates those fraudsters will go to great lengths to access your card and in some cases, banks may take convincing that you are not complicit.

How To Keep Safe

  • Always report any lost or stolen cards to your bank or card company straight away
  • Check your statements regularly and if you spot any payments you don’t recognise then contact your card company immediately.
  • Make sure you fully cover your PIN with your free hand or purse or wallet whenever you enter it.  If you spot anything suspicious with an ATM, or someone is watching you, then do not use the machine and report it to your bank
  • If you’re using an online retailer for the first time, always take time to research them before you give them any of your details. Be prepared to ask questions before making a payment.
  • If an offer looks too good to believe then it probably is. Be suspicious of prices that are unfeasibly low.
  • Only use retailers you trust, for example, ones you know or have been recommended to you. If you’re buying an item made by a major brand, you can often find a list of authorised sellers on their official website.
  • Take the time to install / understand the built-in security measures most browsers offer


Contactless Mark(s) registered to  EMVCo, LLC

Take 5 To Stop (images) © 2021 UK Finance

Photographs © The Silver Hedgehog

Editor JJ


If you have lost money as a result of any fraudulent activity

Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101.

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  1. You have done it Again. Lots of information about the subjects and it is much clearer .Thank you for the knowledge and I will look out for the signs.

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