As someone who literally just had his bank account hacked a few weeks ago, I know firsthand how frustrating and scary it is when transactions not made by you show up on your bank statement. And while I was able to get everything squared away with my bank and have the money returned—it was “only” a couple hundred bucks—some people might not be as lucky.
While I have no idea how my bank info got out there for someone to hack me, an investigation by DailyMail showed how crooks are using cheap credit card readers to tap into a person’s account—and it’s happening right on the street without any warning.
In controlled tests with experts, Money Mail discovered that criminals can swipe money off these cards as you’re walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant or browsing in shops.
We discovered that crooks using card reading equipment can also steal information from your card that they can then use to steal your identity.
Our tests found fraudsters only have to get within a few inches of where you keep your wallet to scam you. Fraud was even possible when contactless cards were in bags and jacket pockets.
Fraud on these new bank cards — which you can use without entering your PIN — is currently rare. And if you do fall victim, your bank will typically refund you the full amount.
Sure, that last part about these types of crimes being “rare” is nice to hear and all, but that doesn’t make me sleep any better at night.
According to the Daily Mail piece, the card reading equipment used to make such a crime is available for as little as about $35 online, meaning that, this technology is easy for anyone to get their hands on.
With most new credit and debit cards contactless, this is something that should be a serious concern for all of us—even if there’s nearly nothing to do to help fight it.
The Daily Mail investigation ran tests on various contactless cards for this investigation, with these being the results:
In our experiments the machine beeped when the card was around 4in away and the printer started rolling out a receipt. This means a criminal could steal money from you in a shop or cafe without even brushing against you.
In a public place a criminal would be unlikely to get away with such a brazen act. But many people will keep their bags on the floor and jackets on the backs of seats in pubs and restaurants.
We placed the contactless card inside a wallet, a purse and loose in a leather bag to test whether a machine could take a payment through the material. In every case, the card could be read when it was 2in away.
The best protection was keeping the card in a woman’s purse with a clasp fastener inside a leather bag.
Credit card fraud was a serious concern even before these crooks decided to use some cheap machine like this. And while banks will insure any victims of such an act in full, it’s still scary to think that something could be so simple to steal from someone.