Fraud warning for contactless payers

If you’ve been getting into waving your credit card around near the machine, rather than having to type in that timewastingly long 4 digit pin number, be warned – engineers from the University of Surrey have found that contactless payments are relatively easy for others to intercept.


According to them, they managed to ‘successfully receive contactless transmission from distances of 45-80cm using inconspicuous equipment.’

The banking industry, who have issued millions of contactless cards, insists that’s not true. They say: "The technology is extremely robust, has been thoroughly tested and is working as expected. Payments can only take place where the card is placed within 5cm (2 inches) of the terminal.’

But the researchers have proved them wrong. Using easily available shop bought electronics, the researchers rigged up a looped antenna, which successfully swiped the information from a contactless card from 45cm away. The device, which could easily be concealed in a backpack, was mainly made of cheap components. The most expensive part was a computer card costing £1500, but they said it could be easily replaced with a lower cost version.

(Way to go University of Surrey, giving people ideas.)

The UK Cards association said that contactless fraud card was still extremely rare. But with this and the Marks and Spencer’s debacle, where customers recently paid for things by mistake, contactless payments might just prove to be more trouble than they're worth...


  • Captain.Cretin
    UoS were only proving what was already known - that contactless isnt secure and that anyone nearby could intercept your details and/or get you to pay for their shopping.
  • Jim
    "contactless fraud card"
  • Aston V.
    Who'd have thunk it?
  • Roge
    i love contactless payments at bars - so much quicker
  • Patrick
    M&S readers - these are just teething problems that you get with any new technology. The conversation between the card and reader is encrypted. Of course you can listen to any conversation travelling over radio, but whether you can do anything useful with it is an entirely different matter.

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