According to the National Bank, 67% of all debit and credit card payments in Switzerland were contactless in March 2021 – a 16% increase from the previous year. Card issuers raised the upper limit for contactless payments from 40 to 80 francs last year prompting an increase in the use of the technology. The problem is, that the increase in PIN-free withdrawals also gives thieves easier access to money.
For the experiment, K-Geld purchased a SumUp Air Card Terminal, a compact, low-cost card reader for contactless and chip card payment, from Fust for just CHF 39.90. K-Geld quickly discovered that they were able to debit money from cards even when they were in a person’s pocket, making it clear that thieves can easily steal money from unsuspecting consumers.
Debit withdrawals were even successful when there were several cards with contactless payment function in a wallet. As a rule, the outermost card was charged.
To make matters worse, the signal of these terminal can be easily amplified with an antenna. Our CEO Nicolas Mayencourt explained that an antenna can in fact be used to trigger contactless payments from bank cards in wallets from a distance of five centimetres or more. Furthermore, cybercriminals can easily conceal the trace left through the electronic transactions as there are exclusively electronic banks that can be opened and deleted instantly as well as the fact that the money can quickly be changed into cryptocurrencies deleting its traceability forever.
“It is clear that the so-called NFC (Near-Field-Communications) technology, which is used for contactless payments, is insecure. The issuers of debit and credit cards are also aware of this. Nevertheless, they impose liability on customers for the use of the cards in their general terms and conditions. For transactions that are not PIN protected, this should be questioned." said Mayencourt.