Don't panic: no-one is scanning your contactless card through your pocket

POS Fraud
POS Fraud

One of the latest photos doing the rounds on social media shows a person holding a card terminal, supposedly using it to extract contactless card payments through the pockets of unaware people.

However, it's causing a lot more panic than it deserves - at least in the UK. The UK Cards Association, the trade body for card payments, has confirmed to techradar there have been no reported incidents of this crime in the country.

According to the UK Cards Association, this is it's nigh on impossible that someone could carry this out and get away with it.

Originally a post on a Russian Facebook page, the photo in question was picked up and shared by a lot of people claiming fraudsters could be slyly using POS (Point Of Sale) terminals to steal up to £30 at a time. But that's not the case, according to the UK Cards Association.

Unnecessary panic

Giles Mason, Media Relations Manager for the UK Cards Association, told techradar, "In order to be able receive any money from a card payment, a retailer account must be set up with an acquiring bank.

"All acquirers carry out thorough security checks before setting up an account, and monitor new accounts for any suspicious activity. Every card payment is fully traceable, right through to the recipient account, meaning if any fraud is reported the recipient is easily identifiable."

It is theoretically possible that someone could use a registered terminal that is connected to a retail account, but it would be easy to track the thief down.

All cardholders in the UK and US are fully protected against fraud and would receive money back from their bank.


Contactless cards also need to be placed correctly on a card reader. Mason said it would have to be a few centimeters away to work and "not near any metallic objects, including keys, mobile phones or other cards, which would interfere with the signal."

The situation in other countries such as the US is not as clear. When abroad or living in a different country the policy may be different, but Mason noted that all terminals would need to be connected to a retail account in the US so it would be easy to track down the thief there too.

Contactless card fraud is actually quite low. In the first half of 2015, only £516,500 of a £2.58 billion contactless spend was fraudulent.

That represents less than 0.2% of all cases of card fraud in the UK in the first six months of 2015.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.