Contactless payment is secure – don’t listen to security myths!

Last updated: 17 November 2016

Contactless security

There are many myths about contactless payments, and we’ve discussed those before. Examples include the idea fraudsters could use long-range RFID readers to extract personal data, or use contactless skimming to create a counterfeit card. Another misperception is that losses could be higher in the event of a contactless card being lost or stolen.

Just like Medusa, Cyclops or King Midas’ famed ability to turn anything he touched into gold, these ideas belong firmly in the realm of mythology. Admittedly, NFC might one day turn everything into a payment reader, allowing you to impersonate King Midas’ golden touch— with the added bonus of not ultimately succumbing to starvation. Seriously, though, there’s no evidence to support these myths and they should not stop you from embracing the technology.

Just in case there’s a little bit of doubt left in your mind, let’s address each of these myths one more time and for good.

1. They’re going to steal my data with long-range RFID readers

We understand why you might be concerned over your personal data security, but with contactless payments you don’t need to worry about any long-range data extraction techniques. It’s impossible to use long-range RFID readers in this way, as a contactless card can’t be wirelessly connected, let alone tampered with, from any distance greater than 4 centimeters away. So, you can rule that one out.

2. Contactless skimming with close range readers

In this myth, a cunning Artful Dodger has acquired an NFC reader, which they use to clone contactless cards in someone’s pocket or bag in crowded public spaces. It’s impossible to clone a contactless card in this way – only a POS terminal, provided by a partnering bank, can communicate with the card in a meaningful EMV way, meaning completing a payment transaction. In the unlikely event a fraudster was using a genuine POS, they’d be caught out and show up on the processing network. No need to worry about pickpockets!

3. Losses are larger with stolen contactless cards

Contactless transactions don’t need a PIN code for low payment amounts, so there’s a misperception that a lost or stolen contactless card might result in greater financial losses. In fact, losses would probably be very low indeed, as after a certain number of transactions, you need to reset the card with chip and PIN. In addition, providing you report a card as stolen or missing, your issuing bank will reimburse you for any money lost. And, remember, the PIN will still protect the cardholder for large transactions.

There’s no need to worry about contactless payments – they’re perfectly safe. And as you never have to let go of your card during the transaction or let it out of your sight, your card can’t be quickly cloned by an unscrupulous merchant.

We think it would be a real shame to miss out on the benefits of seamless, convenient purchases because of a few myths with no evidential basis.

Read more about dispelling contactless payment security myths at our dedicated webpage, where you can download our brochure. Let us know how contactless payments have made your daily life more convenient by tweeting to us at @GemaltoMobile.

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