Tap and Steal: COVID-19 sparks contactless payments crime spree

July 24, 2020
Safety and Privacy

Tap and Steal: COVID-19 sparks contactless payments crime spree

The $200 limit for contactless payments with no PIN or signature has led to an apparent crime spree.

The latest official card fraud statistics from the industry self-regulator AusPayNet show this kind of theft was in decline before COVID-19. During the last three months, Police in Australia and New Zealand have issued more than 48 warnings, public statements and social media posts about contactless card fraud and the $200 limit for no-PIN transactions, a massive increase on the number of police posts in the three months prior to this date.

*Found by Next Payments researchers (July numbers are up to 23 July)

Since 3 April when the limit was doubled from $100 to $200, criminals seem to have targeted PayWave and Tap & Go cards. A criminal can now make numerous transactions of up to $200 each in minutes after stealing a card.

“The $200 limit has led to people’s cars being broken into, handbags stolen and criminals running rampant in our streets, suburbs and shops,” said Tim Wildash, Chief Executive Officer of Next Payments, Australia’s leading independent ATM network.

“The $200 limit has turned Tap & Go cards into Tap & Steal goldmines for criminals. Five transactions can be $1,000 gone in a matter of minutes,” said Tim Wildash.

The $200 limit was introduced after pressure from Visa and Mastercard.

At the time, Visa said Australians should be rest assured about card fraud. Mastercard said they were exploring ways to support Australians through these times.

“COVID-19 seems to have been a bonanza for Visa and Mastercard but merchant surcharges have not changed,” said Tim Wildash.

“A common 1.6% card fee equals eight dollars per $500 spent.”

Many Australians are being hurt by Tap and Steal card fraud said Tim Wildash.

“Banks cover theft from bank accounts but do they cover the costs of broken car windows, lost handbags and personal possessions?

“The work required to replace the card and the days without a card is frustrating and it’s not convenient to open a new account and re-establish direct debits.”

“Tap and Steal card fraud is spiking and the banks don’t seem to want to tell us much about it. I am calling for the no-PIN limit for contactless payment to return to $100. Too many people are becoming victims of crime.”

“It doesn’t sit well with me that the card companies and banks get wealthier as the consumers suffer.”

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