Exclusive: Hack Breaks Your Visa Card’s Contactless Limit For Big Frauds

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Exclusive: Hack Breaks Your Visa Card’s Contactless Limit For Big Frauds

Visa Card

Think that £30 limit on contactless payments is going to protect you from big thefts? Think again.

Security researchers have found a way to bypass that limit on Visa cards. Their hack, which isn’t limited to U.K. cards, could let opportunistic crooks drain accounts with a single tap, and they claim they don’t even need to steal the credit card. And little on Visa’s side is being done to address this fresh fraud threat.

Forbes let the researchers—Leigh-Anne Galloway and Tim Yunusov from cybersecurity company Positive Technologies—try it out on a personal Visa card. They extracted three successful payments of £31 ($38). On their own cards they made contactless payments as high as £101, though it’s possible more could be stolen with just a tap.

Their hacks show how contactless fraud could get a lot worse. Typically, if a bank sees multiple £30 contactless payments, the card will cease to work, as fraud detection systems suspect it’s in the hands of a thief. But if it’s possible to make large transactions in one tap, the potential for significant frauds rises.

Card thieves can now make larger payments than they could before. But now, they don’t even need to steal the card. Criminals could, for instance, take a payment from a card when the user wasn’t looking with their own mobile payments machine (though a malicious merchant would eventually be caught by banks’ fraud systems if they used the same terminal). Or even more dastardly, it’s possible to take a payment reading from a credit card using a mobile phone, send the data to another phone and make a payment on that second device going beyond the limit, the researchers claimed. For the hack to work, all the fraudsters need is to be close to their victim.

“So that means if you found someone’s card or if someone stole your card, they wouldn’t have to know your PIN, they wouldn’t have to impersonate your signature, and they could make a payment for a much higher value,” said Galloway.

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