The Investment Scientist

Beware of NFC Payments!

Posted on: August 17, 2020

nfc-android.jpgNear-Field Communication  (contactless) payment either through your smart phone or through your credit card chip has revolutionized commerce.  Instead of swiping or inserting your credit card, waiting for a printout and signing your name, you can just wave your phone, wait for the beep and go. But just a moment ago, I learned the hard way that this technology is not secure.

I went to Giant to buy a bottle of Diet Coke. I do that because I know soda is a bad habit so I don’t keep it in my refrigerator. When I want to drink Coke, I will drive to the nearby Giant and buy only one.

I used the self-checkout and beeped it through with my phone’s NFC payment. As I was in my car driving back home, I got a text message from my credit card issuer showing I just made a $48.51 purchase at Giant a moment before. That’s an expensive bottle of Coke! I turned around right away. Luckily, there was another customer there who was very puzzled that someone had paid for his entire grocery shopping.

I have no idea how that happened but it did. The saving grace is that I set up text notifications with my credit card, so every time there is a charge for more than $10, I will get a text. This time, I was able to deal with it right away and get it resolved.

At this time, I can’t recommend that you stop using NFC entirely since it is indeed very convenient. But I do think you should set up the credit the card alert like I did so you can be aware of unusual charges right away. 

Three years ago, I wrote an article titled “What To Do To Protect Yourself.” I think it’s worth reading again.

Schedule a 2nd opinion financial review, buy my wealth mgmt books on Amazon.

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

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