The tap-and-go system on bank cards may be convenient for the consumer but it's a goldmine for thieves.
Warrnambool police Inspector Paul Marshall said criminals were using the tap-and-go feature on stolen cards to buy hundreds of dollars worth of goods in just minutes.
He said if transactions were under $100, thieves could purchase items without the need for a pin number or other identification.
"The opportunistic thief will take a wallet, purse or handbag from an unlocked car, unlocked house or a pokie venue," he said.
"They then go from store to store just waving the card to purchase items. We've also seen instances where people split their purchases to get them under the $100 limit."
Deception-related offences in Warrnambool in the year to March have increased by a stunning 720 per cent since 2016.
On Monday, a Warrnambool woman was jailed for 129 days after she used a bank card stolen in a burglary to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of cigarettes and alcohol.
The Warrnambool Magistrates Court has also recently seen two Warrnambool men aged 39 and 18, and a 42-year-old Camperdown man, convicted of similar crimes.
All of the offenders used the tap-and-go feature to purchase cigarettes and other grocery items such as food and drink.
They were later identified through CCTV footage.
Inspector Marshall said changing technology often allowed criminals to carry out crime more easily.
"Crime-related technology is changing all the time but we are trying very hard to keep ahead of it and pick that next one out as soon as possible," he said.
"Our first step is always to communicate with the community about this type of offending. There are always types of security steps that we can take to prevent being targeted.
"If that car and house is locked, then that thief will move on to the next place. It is about looking after your property and making sure it's secure.
"We're also asking that shop attendants keep a look out and question suspicious behaviour."
Warrnambool's Mick Townsend had someone spend $1400 using tap-and-go on his accounts when his wallet was stolen.
He believes he dropped the wallet while at KFC early last week.
"We started looking for it on Tuesday night and I thought 'I better check my bank account'."
That is when he discovered his card had been used at a handful of retail outlets in the city, with $1000 spent on one account and about $400 spent on another.
"I was pretty angry," Mr Townsend said.
"I couldn't do that to someone."
Mr Townsend said he believed it was too easy for thieves to access another person's account with tap-and-go.
"If you can go around and spend $100 at 10 stores, that's $1000 straight away.
People work hard for their money and tap-and-go makes it too easy for thievesMick Townsend
"People work hard for their money and tap-and-go makes it too easy for thieves."
Mr Townsend said his bank had told him the money would be refunded, but that may take up to 10 days.
He has reported it to police and hopes the offender is tracked down.
In addition to the spending on his credit cards, Mr Townsend will now have to replace the cards he needs for his trade as a concretor.
Mr Townsend, who runs his own business MNT Concrete and Construction, said the theft had left him with a bitter taste in his mouth.
South West Credit chief executive officer David Brown said those affected by crimes of deception should report the matter to police and contact their bank immediately.
"If there is evidence of deliberate, fraudulent behaviour that is not due to carelessness behaviour then the bank can refund the money," he said.
"People can complete a police report and then make an application through bank. It is usually dealt with immediately but under certain circumstances, it is dealt with within 21 days."
Mr Brown said despite deception-related offences rising, South West Credit recorded less than $5000 in losses in the last financial year.
He said consumers usually flagged fraudulent use of their cards quickly, allowing for the bank to freeze their account immediately.
"I think that's the advantage of being a local bank, our clients can let us know of any issues immediately," he said .
"Another tip would be to have alerts loaded on their account. We certainly encourage that as you can set a threshold for your spending and you will be alerted if that is exceeded."
Mr Brown said consumers could also turn off the payWave feature by calling or attending the bank branch.
"But I would say that this sort of technology is replacing cash and payWave should not be feared," he said.
"I think people should be more aware of their property and treat their bank card as they would any other valuable.
I think people should be more aware of their property and treat their bank card as they would any other valuable.David Brown
"We've been monitoring payment trends and the tap-and-go technology is definitely here to stay.
"It is convenient for the consumer and you can also draw a parallel to the butcher in Northpoint who has gone cashless. I think we will see more of that because it is clear that even the merchants and retailers prefer the tap-and-go. It's the way of the future."
Warrnambool Country Meats at Northpoint Shopping Centre (formerly Centro) began transitioning to a cash-less store from August 1.
Mr Brown said South West Credit customers could also look forward to using Apple Pay in the near future.
Apple Pay is a digital wallet that allows consumers to store their MasterCard and Visa credit cards to their phone. Mr Brown said with tightened phone security, including pass codes and facial recognition, it was harder for thieves to carry out deception offences.
"But at the end of the day, you wouldn't lose your mobile phone so treat your bank card the same way," he said.
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