Credit card security risk

New card payment technologies are convenient, but do we really know enough about how they work? Gayle has a cautionary tale for those with plastic in their purses.

Gayle

I thought your readers might be interested in what happened to me. I made a rather large purchase at a chemist and when I went to the counter to pay, she tallied it all up and the total was $172. Realising it was over the $100 I knew I couldn’t use PayWave. So I inserted my BOQ credit card and waited for the screen to come up where you select cheque, savings or credit, which is then followed by the screen to put in your PIN number. Instead it immediately processed the sale and the shop assistant said, “Oh, you will need to sign”. I was a little surprised because I haven’t signed for a while, and having heard they would soon be phasing signatures out, I replied “Oh sign. OK, no problem”. I must have sounded a little suspicious, as she took great pains comparing the signatures, which to be frank I think was good. All done, I left the store.

The next morning I visited my daughter and happened to walk in on a conversation she was having with her husband and he was asking her had she spent $172 at the chemist, to which she of course replied no. He said he was going to ring their bank, the CBA, to query it. At this point I said I had spent $172 at the chemist the day before, and asked when their transaction had happened, and of course theirs was the day before.

So then we tried to work out how this had happened. I have been set up to have a credit card for their account so that I can make purchases on their behalf, as my daughter’s personal assistant. Being in my sixties, they presumed I had accidentally paid with their credit card. I knew I hadn’t, because the assistant had taken great pains to compare the signature on my own credit card. I have never signed the back of their card. It is a recently new card and I hadn’t got around to signing it and was wondering whether I should, when I knew they were phasing signatures out. So there was no signature to compare the slip to, which confirms to me that my memory of paying with my own card was 100 per cent right.

Having checked my own credit card account the $172 had not been charged despite the fact it was my card that was inserted. So at least there wasn’t a double dip.

Conclusion – the only way this could have happened, was if their card was read from within my wallet, just piping my credit card as it was inserted.

I have a lot of different cards in my wallet, some bank cards and some reward cards. Their card was right in the middle of my wallet. I sat my wallet on the counter in front of me while I got my credit card out, and held onto it in that position till my credit card was returned to me after comparing signatures. I have measured the distance from that point on the counter to the PayWave facility and it was 30 centimetres. Obviously it needs to be within arms length for customers to pay, but do you think the problem is because it’s too close? I have to wonder if this is possible from arms length too?

The staff member I spoke to at BOQ, was equally as puzzled and told me she had not heard of such a thing happening. She made it clear the problem was with the CBA card. I don’t believe it is a problem with a card, but a flaw in the PayWave system.

In this situation, it was just as well I walked in on that conversation. Being family members I can rectify the $172 with a simple internet transfer. But I have to ask, is it possible this can happen when two strangers are at a confined counter at the same time? Or several customers at a self- serve checkout at a grocery store, for example?

I will be carrying my credit cards in a metal case in future. Hopefully that will give me some added protection that the banks can’t.

Have you had a similar experience to Gayle’s? Do you believe that the new PayWave/PayPass technology is secure? Do you have any card security tips of your own?

Written by Debbie McTaggart



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