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Unveiling the Threat: Criminal Exploitation of ‘Tap-to-Pay’ in South Africa – Essential Insights for Consumers

Criminals have set their sights on tap-to-pay technology in South Africa, posing a significant threat to bank card users. This convenient payment method, known as tap-and-go or contactless payment, allows individuals to make transactions swiftly by tapping their card or using their smartphone or smartwatch at a point-of-sale (POS) machine.

Despite the efforts of banks to implement fraud detection and prevention measures such as SIM Swap detection, transaction monitoring, and 2-factor authentication (2FA), criminals persist in finding loopholes to exploit. A recent security video shared by Yusuf Abramjee from Crime Watch sheds light on one such tactic employed by fraudsters.

Video credit @ Yusuf Abramjee

In the video, criminals strategically position themselves near the POS desk in a store, engaging the cashier in conversation while waiting for an unsuspecting victim. When the victim approaches to make a legitimate purchase, the criminal covertly scans their card using a smartphone equipped with software capable of cloning card details. This entire process occurs without the victim’s awareness, leaving them vulnerable to theft.

This scam exploits near-field communication (NFC) technology utilized in tap-and-go payment systems. By stealing card information, including the card number, expiry date, and CVV number, fraudsters can make unauthorized purchases through digital wallets linked to their smart devices. Unlike normal transactions that require a one-time password (OTP) for authentication, NFC payments often bypass this additional security measure, making them an attractive target for criminals.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBSSA) has received numerous complaints regarding NFC fraud, with losses totalling millions of rands. Victims have reported unauthorized transactions made with their accounts through tap-and-go purchases in foreign countries like Dubai, France, and Spain, while they were still in South Africa.

As criminals continue to evolve their tactics, consumers must remain vigilant when using tap-and-go technology. While it offers convenience, it also presents risks that can be mitigated through heightened awareness and proactive measures to safeguard personal financial information.

Be vigilant and stay safe.

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