© VRT

“We have no knowledge of any cases in Belgium”

VRT’s Factcheckers’ programme wanted to find out how easy it is to steal money thanks to contactless payments.  It turned out this was pretty simple! Equipped with a portable contactless pay terminal VRT’s Factcheckers “stole” 240 euros from unsuspecting passers-by but being honest people, all the cash was returned!

Contactless payments are popular partly thanks to the pandemic.  Last December 57.7% of payments by debit card were contactless.  Often you can spend up to 150 euros a day without having to provide a PIN code.

VRT Factcheckers saw a German video all about digital pickpockets who stole cash by placing a pay terminal in the vicinity of people’s pockets and bags. They purchased a terminal for 14.99 euros and set off.

“This is a modern form of pickpocketing” says VRT’s Britt Van Marsenille after heading out onto the seafront in Ostend and using the pay terminal to collect cash from people’s cards.

Rodolphe de Pierpont of the Belgian Federation of Banks says the identity of anybody who tries to put this form of fraud into practice is easily discovered. “Anybody defrauded in this way would be compensated after an investigation.  That’s EU law!”

So far, no such compensation has had to be paid in Belgium. “It’s a very unlikely form of fraud” insists De Pierpont. “The profits are so tiny compared to the risk.  We have no knowledge of any cases in Belgium”.

De Pierpont claims pay terminals are only supplied when a retailer signs a contract with the financial body processing the payments and this body is obliged to follow the ‘Know Your Customer’ process ensuring identity is established.

VRT Factcheckers beg to differ: “Retailers will have to follow this procedure, but we ordered a simple pay terminal online and, in a few steps, linked it to our account” says Britt. “There were no contracts or checks”.

“We’re not claiming it’s the best way to commit fraud, but it can be done!”

Payment processor CCV says the practice is virtually inexistant in Belgium: “The procedures work and anybody who was defrauded would soon notice this.  Fraudulent payments would soon be linked to a specific pay terminal.  The authorities would swiftly be able to block its use and launch an investigation”.

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