Street Payment Devices - A Word of Caution.

Posted on: 08/06/2018

A few years ago, staff at some Petrol Stations in the UK were found to have interfered with the card payment devices in their forecourt shops, so that mag stripe information and PIN numbers were recorded unencrypted.

Thousands of card holders suffered fraud before the criminals were stopped.

Of course, card payment devices in shops and similar environments are traceable back to the businesses where they are in use. In the end, that is what trapped the petrol station staff who had tampered with the equipment.

Roll forward. Companies such as iZettle are giving card payment devices to anyone who wants them. Recently, for example, we have been told that London Buskers will all soon have such payment systems.

As in any walk of life, the vast majority of existing Buskers - or, for that matter, casual car washers or jobbing gardeners or door-to-door sales people - will be honest, decent people who would not dream of breaking the law by trying to commit card fraud.

HOWEVER, it will not be long before organised gangs see the potential for fraud in such largely unsupervised environments.They know how to "rewire" the devices and could quickly train squads of eg "buskers" to hit the streets of major cities for a week or two, collecting masses of card data.

Remember when trained gangs of pickpockets used to fly in to Heathrow to work the terminals for a few hours and then flew straight out again?

Street card fraud will be MUCH more lucrative - and will effectively be untraceable to any business or individual. Like the pickpockets at Heathrow, the criminals are most likely to be out of the country before law enforcement can get to grips with them. 

Even if a transaction is contactless, the data recorded will be valuable. However, excuses can also be found to ask for Personal Identification Numbers to be used - a PIN should be required for roughly 1 in 7 contactless transactions anyway. 

The fraudsters are sure to be persuasive in asking for a PIN to be used. They always are.

These devices, sold like toys, threaten to fuel the next wave of card fraud.

Be wary. If you know and trust the person with the payment device - say, your regular window cleaner or Busker or Big Issue seller - you should, of course, be ok.

But beware of plausible strangers. 

What they hold in their hands might be the key to your card or bank account.

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