Health, safety and security checks while dealing with the payment process

In our second post in the series on ‘Contactless payments in the age of coronavirus’, David Orme, SVP of Sales and Marketing at IDEX Biometrics, discusses health, safety and security checks while dealing with the payment process.

There are problems with money. Card fraud has never been higher, and cash and ATMs carry high risks of infection. Of all the alternatives, a smart card payment system offers the best protection.

You’ve heard the expression “filthy lucre”. It has always carried a double connotation; the unsanitary nature of handling money and the avarice with which some people seek it. “Lucre” comes from Latin and was already morally ambiguous before it entered English. It could mean either legitimate profit or avaricious gain. In “The Canterbury Tales” (The Prioress’s Tale) Chaucer wrote “foule usure and lucre of vileynye” or in modern English “foul usury and the lucre of villainy”.

The moral battle over money has waged on. When William Tyndale brought the phrase “filthy lucre” into the Bible (Titus 1:7,11) it was to create a metaphor between the physical grubbiness of money and the immoral means by which some people pursue it. Today both of those interpretations could hardly be more appropriate: our money is at risk from both disease and criminality.

Problems with our payment systems

Between 2017 and 2019, financial fraud, especially the abuse of credit and debit card numbers, soared by about 46%. Identity theft also soared following major hacks of Equifax and Capital One. That in itself raises another question – if the institutions central to our entire financial system can’t be trusted with our private data, who can?

Before that question could be answered, along came Covid-19. Within weeks, the world’s governments and banks were advising us to avoid not only cash but also the keypads on ATMs and supermarket checkouts. Fortunately, most bank cards were recently upgraded with new chips, so it is still possible to navigate a smart card payment system with “tap-and-go”.

Taking more precautions

By the end of the year, some smart cards will have built-in biometric fingerprint sensors. This will solve three problems; they will be almost impossible to misuse, they will work contactless, and they do not send your biometric information to a financial institution or any other centralized database.

While you wait for one, follow these guidelines to keep yourself safe. Most infections are spread by touching hard surfaces like door handles, armrests, shopping trolleys, light switches and keypads, so scrub your hands often, with soap. In between, avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth. Pay cashless whenever possible but guard your card carefully. Clean it with disinfectant or a high alcohol sanitizer if other people have to handle it.

Statistics show that physical cards, and contactless payments in particular, suffer less fraud than shopping online. Although mobile phones can also use fingerprint sensors, the apps installed on them are a security risk. Many are also used to spy on your movements and collect your private information onto centralized databases where it can be misused. Ask your bank to give you a biometric card!

The previous post in our series on ‘Contactless payments in the age of coronavirus’ looked at how payment systems can combat the coronavirus pandemic