As virtually everyone knows, online credit fraud is rife, so most of us do our very best to protect sensitive personal information by changing our Internet passwords and login details from time to time to minimise the risk of our bank and credit card details being stolen.

But scammers have developed new methods of taking money from even the most cautious of us without us even knowing. It’s called electronic pickpocketing.

About Contactless Cards

Contactless bank cards are a wonderful innovation and have made everyday shopping and dining out quicker and easier than ever before.

However, a security flaw has given access to thieves to steal information from these cards, enabling them to purchase goods costing many thousands of pounds.

Card-reading devices can be purchased easily and cheaply online, allowing fraudsters to steal data at the touch of a button. Your account details are contained in a chip held within your contactless card, which is transferred to a card reader when the two come closely into contact with each other.

Currently, for purchases of less than £30.00 there is no need to enter a pin number, so unless you’re particularly diligent in checking your bank statements, money can go missing from your account without you even noticing it.

In 2014, the total annual contactless fraud loss was £153,000 compared with total spending of £2.32bn. This represents 0.7p in every £100 spent on contactless and is 10 times less than total card fraud losses (all forms, not just contactless) at 7.5p in every £100 spent on all debit and credit cards.

Fraudsters can buy card-reading machines online for under £25.00, and there are no checks on who buys them. These small handheld devices only need to be about 10cm away from your card to pick up the necessary information to make a transaction; so whether you’re lining up in a queue, sitting on a train or bus or even just standing in the street, thieves can gain access to your information. All they need to do is allow the device to hover near your card for a few seconds and the deed is done.

As soon as the thief has your name, card number and expiry date, they are free to commit fraud at will in shops, restaurants or online.

What can we do to protect ourselves?

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it seems.

Don’t leave your card anywhere people can get access to it, for example by leaving it in an unattended bag or purse or on a chair in a bar or restaurant.

Don’t put your card in your back pocket of your trousers or inside the pocket of your jacket.

If you want to be absolutely sure that your details can’t be stolen, you could always wrap your card in tin foil; though if you feel you need to go to this length, you may need to ask yourself if there’s any point in owning one of these cards.

Alternatively, just return your contactless card to your bank and ask them to replace it with one that doesn’t contain a chip.

Perhaps this is technology that we don’t really need.