Nilesh Patel, of Monks Newsagent in Wembley, said around two customers run from his shop with goods before contactless payments have been approved every day. 

“I am now telling many customers that I don’t offer contactless because it’s such a problem,” he said. 

“Some cards show up as having insufficient funds and others are declined, but even if I’ve asked customers to wait, they leave. Calling the police every time is time-consuming.” 

Ravi Raveendran, of Colombo Food & Wine in Hounslow, said he has dealt with four similar incidents in the past month.

“Contactless is there for the benefit of the customer, but it’s not right that retailers are losing money.

“These fraudsters know they have no funds in their accounts and at busy times shop assistants can’t run after them,” he said. 

Business crime costs retailers nearly £4,000 a year

Raveendran has resorted to withholding purchases behind the till until payments have been approved, but has called for card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa to help retailers with the problem. 

“There should be a compensation fund to help retailers, and also a better mechanism between issuers and the police to trace fraudsters and withdraw contactless cards,” he said. 

NFRN national president Stuart Reddish added: “We encourage retailers to never hand over products or leave them accessible on the counter until a credit or debit payment is complete.

Letter sent to home secretary demanding action on retail crime

“The NFRN has a credit card fraud prevention fact sheet to encourage members to adopt internal preventative measures.” 

Mastercard and Visa were contacted for comment on the issue, but did not respond by the time betterRetailing went to press.

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