Today, there are more Kenyans using plastic money or debit and credit cards than there were a couple of years ago.

Electronic payment firms have been trying for a more cashless economy and gradually the behaviour of the Kenyans is changing with more people willing to use cards for goods or services.

Recent data from Visa indicates a 5 per cent growth on point-of-sale transactions in the past one year, amounting to KSh. 26 billion. During this period, the number of Visa cards has jumped from 5 million to 6 million.

To further their presence in the country they are planning to start a mobile facility that will enable traders, including ‘mama mboga’ to have a point-of-sale by connecting through their phone. This technology is, at present, being tested in Rwanda.

On the other hand, MasterCard has been aggressively partnering with both retailers and banks to come out with solutions leading to financial inclusion and making its presence felt in the region. It has partnered with Nakumatt to convert one million loyalty cards into MasterCard prepaid cards.

It is also working with Equity Bank to introduce 5 million EMV debit and prepaid cards (having a secure microchip) before moving on to other countries in the region.

But, with Kenyans using plastic money has increased the risk of fraud. People should realise that whether it is ATM credit, prepaid or other forms of plastic money, they have to be more careful and not think that their money is safe because they are not carrying cash around.

Sometimes it is the little things that people take for granted that can end up in their losing their hard-earned cash to unscrupulous people.

At the end of last year, there were reports of customers of some local banks losing money to fraudsters who had gained access to their credit or debit card details.

Fraudsters are now taking the aid of new and sophisticated technologies to target both customers and banks.

Skimming is the most popular method, where fraudsters use the technology to trap information from unsuspecting ATM users. Others use strategically placed wireless cameras that capture card details during transactions.

People are advised to be cautious when giving their card to be swiped at a point-of-sale or withdrawing money from an ATM as this is where their card details could be captured without their knowledge.

They are also advised to avoid using ATMs in suspicious or non-secure locations, with poor lighting or security, and keep a lookout for anyone hovering around or offering to help them.

When you hand over your card to pay for goods or services, especially in restaurants or other places where you cannot see your card being swiped, ensure that your card is returned and that you have all the receipts.

If possible, go to the point of sale as they swipe your card if the establishment does not have mobile point of sale machines. You can ask them if they have a mobile machine that can be brought to your table.

Many establishments, especially restaurants and petrol stations now prefer to bring the swiping machine to where the customer is. This is to your advantage as it is more secure than when they swipe it out of your sight.

Another new service that is gaining popularity with customers is the fact that banks alert their customers instantly on any transactions carried out on their cards – be it debit or credit. You will know instantly when your card is swiped. Make it a point to read these SMSs and if you have not done any such transaction, alert your bank immediately.

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