Contactless payments bring new risks

London 2012 is gearing up to become the ‘contactless' Olympics, with the need to queue for tickets, entry and transport negated by cards that you simply wave at a terminal and smartphones or tablets that beam payment information from a distance.

Transport for London's Oyster card has familiarised millions of commuters and visitors to the capital with the concept, and by the end of 2012 card readers across the whole of the network will have been upgraded to enable passengers to be able to play using a touch of a contactless bank or credit card.

Fast food outlets, coffee shop chains and pharmacies are already accepting the UK's 11.6 million contactless payment cards for transactions worth a maximum of £15.

Now, in the wake of research showing that we're more likely to forget our wallets than our mobiles, mobile payment apps, linked to your chosen payment card account, are becoming available for all the leading smartphones. New generation Apple iPads, iPhones, Blackberries and Nokias are all set to incorporate a mobile payments option.

“That's good news but every advance in technology brings a new set of risks,” says Pete Turner, managing director of Experian Interactive. “If you're going to take advantage of the queue-busting convenience of contactless payments, then you need to build extra security precautions into the way you use your mobile or tablet, or you could lose a lot more than the handset – your identity could be vulnerable, too.”

Here are ten ways to help you stay safe from fraudsters who could get access to your personal and payment data, clear out your accounts and borrow in your name, damaging your credit status in the process.

1. With payments built in, your mobile is more desirable to thieves than ever, so password protect it and remember to relock when you've finished using it.

2. Make sure your data can't be overlooked or intercepted when you beam a mobile payment – be as careful as you would be at a cash machine or when you enter your PIN in a shop.

3. Install the latest anti-virus software and firewalls, and update your systems regularly.

4. Disable file-sharing options when you use your phone in public, in case an electronic eavesdropper gets hold of sensitive data.

5. Don't store payment-related information, such as passwords or PINs, on any device that can be used to access your accounts. And don't keep your date of birth, full address or anything personal that you use for security information, such as nicknames and pets' names.

6. Try to take advantage of security options offered by the big card systems, such as Visa and MasterCard – for example, sign up for Visa's 3D Secure and MasterCard SecureCode and use one-time passwords if you have a chance.

7. Check your credit report regularly – the Home Office recommends this as a protection against identity fraud. Look out for suspicious entries, such as new applications for credit that you didn't make. If you find anything, contact the relevant lender immediately. You can have unlimited access to your Experian credit report and Experian Credit Score for free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert (A monthly fee applies after the trial period. New customers only. Terms and Conditions apply).

8. Note down your International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) – a 15- or 17-digit code unique to your mobile device. If it's lost or stolen, give the IMEI to your supplier and they can block the handset permanently. Enter *#06# into the keypad to see it.

9. It is best not to open unsolicited e-mails - and never download attachments from an unknown source. You could be introducing spyware that will steal the data stored in your handset.

10. If you feel insecure, don't use mobile payments to access your online banking or card accounts. It's better to wait until you're home than risk joining the 100,000+ people who became victims of ID fraud in 2010.

Experian Credit Expert: A monthly fee of £14.99 applies after your free trial. You may cancel during your 30-day free trial without charge. New customers only. Free trial period starts on registration - further ID verification may be required to access full service which may take up to 5 days.

Back to blog home


All content is for informational purposes only and is the opinion of the author. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as "advice". Money Dashboard Ltd make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or any damages arising from its display or use.

Related articles

Download app
Important Information: Money Dashboard Neon and Classic mobile and web apps are now closed as of 31/10/2023. Please see our FAQs for more information.