Beware of ‘Tap to Pay’ Scams Targeting South Africans

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In a disturbing trend, criminals are exploiting the convenience of tap-and-go payments, targeting unsuspecting South Africans in a sophisticated scam that can leave victims financially drained. With the rise of digital payments in South Africa’s robust banking landscape, the ease of tap-and-go transactions has become a double-edged sword, warns experts.

Richard Frost, Product Head at cybersecurity firm Armata, highlights the insidious nature of this scam. He paints a scenario where a simple transaction at a petrol station can turn into a costly ordeal. Criminals, equipped with portable credit card machines, exploit the proximity of unsuspecting victims. By surreptitiously tapping the victim’s card at the same time as a legitimate transaction, they siphon funds undetected, leaving victims none the wiser until they receive notifications from their banks.

Of particular concern is the absence of transaction limits on many cards, enabling fraudsters to make substantial unauthorized transactions in a single tap. While larger transactions may trigger verification SMS from banks, Frost emphasizes the need for caution.

Frost recommends disabling tap functionality on cards as a proactive measure to safeguard finances. Additionally, he advocates for the use of mobile payment solutions like Google Pay or Apple Wallet, citing their enhanced security features and limited transaction capabilities. Mobile payments not only offer added security but also impose a time limit on transactions, making it harder for criminals to exploit.

Moreover, Frost advises South Africans to exercise caution in crowded spaces, opt for chip and PIN transactions for expensive purchases, and utilize payment solutions requiring authentication. Concealing banking apps in a private folder on mobile devices is also recommended to prevent potential coercion in dangerous situations.

As the prevalence of digital payments continues to rise, Frost’s warnings serve as a timely reminder for South Africans to remain vigilant against evolving cyber threats. By adopting proactive measures and exercising caution, individuals can mitigate the risks associated with tap-and-go transactions, ensuring their financial security in an increasingly digital world.

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