Police frustrated by ‘tap and go’ credit cards


Contactless payment systems are available at an increasing number of retailers, and make shopping faster and easier.

‘Tap and go’ credit and debit card systems are becoming incredibly popular in Australia, accounting for almost half of all face-to-face card transactions.

But from the perspective of the police, they open up another loophole for unscrupulous people to exploit.

Credit card fraud is already a serious problem in Australia, with a range of fraud offences being perpetrated through stolen credit card information acquired by ‘skimmers’ and through shady internet transactions.

In 2010, the credit card was the most commonly sold item in the underground economy, according to the Australian Crime Commission.

And fraud is more common in NSW than break and enter, car theft and shoplifting.

It is the most common type of offence against property, with close to 50,000 incidents reported in the last financial year, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research) BOCSAR.

So when banks introduce technology like tap and go which does not even require a PIN or signature for transactions under $100, police and the general public are understandably worried about the effect this could have on crime rates and victimisation.

Police argue that ‘tap and go’ technology couldn’t have made it any easier for offenders of all ages to steal.

While offenders of all ages are enjoying the new ‘tap and go’ cards, they are proving to be particularly popular with teens and children.

And while banks are all too happy to reimburse customers who have been defrauded, for the police, this isn’t the point.

The Victorian Police Service is especially is unhappy with this additional burden on police resources.

They seem to resent the fact that new technology is introduced with no thought about the consequences, even going so far as to say as they are promoting crime.

Victorian Chief Commissioner Ken Lay has said that the rise in crime caused by tap and go cards is ‘chewing up police resources’.

Police also link the introduction of the new technology to other crimes, including burglary, car break-ins and theft of cards straight from mailboxes.

Credit card company Visa, on the other hand, maintains that the incidence of credit card fraud using tap and go cards is relatively low.

Ian McMindley, senior director of risk services at Visa, says that tap and go cards are actually harder for criminals to replicate.

He is of the view that the introduction of the cards has led to a lower percentage of face to face credit card fraud.

Australian Bankers Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg agrees, saying that the levels of recorded fraud are extremely low.

Despite the discrepancy between police and banks about the levels of crime that the tap and go cards are actually causing, it raises an interesting question: just whose job is it to be policing crime anyway?

The law would seem to imply that the ordinary citizen can and should play a role.

The laws surrounding citizen’s arrest allow citizens to intervene, while other laws require citizens to actively report crime, for example, section 316 of the NSW Crimes Act imposes a duty to report serious crimes in certain circumstances.

Laws have already ensured that banks and telecommunication companies have obligations to record and monitor their customers.

Data retention has been in the sights of the Federal Police for quite some time now, and banks have reporting obligations when it comes to suspicious transactions.

In the ACT, however, there has been a push from police to make banks and their customers more responsible.

But banks do not want to budge, despite concerns that tap and go may perpetuate higher levels of fraud.

To the dismay of frustrated police, banks are not planning on withdrawing the tap and go technology anytime soon.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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