On the LinkedIn networking site, entrepreneur Wojtek Paprota calls himself a “believer of transhumanism”.
It refers to a radical, but growing movement that wants humans to use technology to evolve beyond their physical limits.
The British-Polish businessman is the founder of Walletmor, which claims to be the first company in the world to sell contactless bank card chips that can be implanted in humans.
Documents: London-based Walletmor claims to be the first company in the world to sell contactless bank card chips that can be implanted in humans
The procedure is simple, if bloody, and leaves clients with a small stitch under their wrist.
Once the chip is inserted, users no longer have to worry about debit or credit cards. To make a purchase, they can wave their hand over a contactless reader. It may sound like a dystopian fantasy, but Walletmor is proof of how quickly the payment industry is moving forward.
From chip implants to facial recognition software on your mobile, this new technology aims to relegate cash and bank cards to the history books.
But is the rapidly growing sector dangerously outdated? Certainly, Walletmor seems to be.
Today Money Mail can reveal the firm – which has featured on both the BBC and Forbes – has been embroiled in controversy after it discovered it had misled customers.
Mr Paprota had reallocated the chips from a third-party supplier, MuchBetter, which is associated with Mastercard.
When alerted to Walletmor’s actions, both companies pulled the plug, citing “health and safety” concerns.
Overnight customers in the UK had their accounts closed.
The result? Some ended up with completely redundant chips under the skin. Their only option at present is to have them removed – although Walletmor insists it is looking for ways to reprogram already implanted chips for future use.
A microchip was first inserted into a human in 1998. Professor Kevin Warwick, known as Captain Cyborg, had the procedure performed to link his nervous system to a computer as part of an experiment.
But otherwise, there was little appetite for off-the-shelf chips – until Walletmor stepped in and started selling them as an alternative to bank cards.
The device is about the size of a grain of rice and costs €200 (£169).
Walletmor was unable to perform implants, instead referring clients to drilling specialists.
The chip was linked to a smartphone app run by MuchBetter, where customers could deposit funds. In April, Walletmor bragged on social media to have been featured in over 450 articles worldwide.
“The implant can be used to pay for a drink on the beach in Rio, a coffee in New York, a haircut in Paris – or at your local grocery store,” Mr Paprota told the BBC earlier this year.
From chip implants to facial recognition software on your mobile, new technologies aim to relegate cash and bank cards to the history books
But on a Facebook group dedicated to Walletmor’s 434 “ambassadors”, customers regularly posted videos of card machines struggling to read their chips.
Gary Prince, chief strategy officer of software company SimplyPayMe, says: “It’s a fascinating concept, but for something like this to work, people have to want to use it.
“What is the advantage of calling on your hand? If he could also be loaded with ID, that would be a different story. But it would also open up a broader debate about privacy.
Interest in “biometric” payment solutions, which use physical characteristics to identify a customer and authorize a transaction, has continued to grow.
Well-known examples include fingerprint and facial recognition technology, which is used by banks, tech giants and even at airports to authenticate passports.
In the late 1990s, Nationwide piloted an ATM capable of scanning eyeballs to confirm identity and allow customers to withdraw cash – although it never got beyond the initial trial .
In 2016, Apple Pay introduced “selfie pay” which allows customers to authorize transactions by taking a photo of their face.
The following year, Santander became the first bank in the UK to introduce voice recognition technology. And in 2019, Barclays rolled out “finger vein scanners” that can identify customers at their fingertips using infrared technology.
The hope is that these types of technology could eradicate fraud as criminals are unable to replicate these unique characteristics.
Yet card payments are still by far the most popular form of payment, with 1.7 billion debit and credit card transactions recorded in February this year, according to UK Finance.
As for Walletmor, he now finds himself in a sticky mess.
Card payments are still by far the most popular form of payment, with 1.7 billion debit and credit card transactions recorded in February this year
The company says only two customers in the UK have had the chips implanted. Dozens more had paid but had not yet inserted them.
Around the world, hundreds more have had microchips implanted. But they don’t face the same issues as the company uses a different account provider, iCard.
Dmitriy Kondratiev, a lawyer specializing in the ethics of body modification, says: “Walletmor’s legal department has done an outstanding job of protecting themselves in their terms and conditions.
The company is neither responsible for any complications related to the installation nor responsible for the proper functioning of the bank.’
Walletmor points out that it technically does not offer a financial service, which means that it is not beholden to regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority.
Mr Paprota told Money Mail: ‘We ask our users for their patience as soon as the chips can work perfectly on the British Isles as well. Walletmor is a transparent, honest and professional company. We openly promote our ideas of transhumanism. We hide nothing and operate according to the law.
The fallout has divided Walletmor faithful. Many of its “ambassadors” treat technology as if it were a religion. One wrote on his Facebook page: “I trust Walletmor to solve this problem. Every new technology encounters problems along the way.
Others are less forgiving. “What has emerged is a breach of due diligence,” one wrote.
“Walletmor made the rounds in the media and confidently claimed that they were making implants mainstream. The reality was very different from that.
It is tempting to reject those who are so eager to come on board.
However, around 51% of people in Europe and the UK would consider implanting a chip in their hand, according to a 2021 survey by payment solution service Marqeta.
But when Money Mail approached MuchBetter and Mastercard for statements about their relationship with Walletmor, their responses were eye-opening.
A Mastercard spokesperson said, “This is not a product we are involved with or endorse. This is an area that requires careful consideration to ensure the security of the transaction and the individual.
“We only allow transactions on our network with devices that meet our certification and testing requirements. Human chip implants do not meet these requirements. A spokesperson for MuchBetter adds: “We have no relationship with Walletmor, commercially or otherwise implied. Walletmor is in violation of the MuchBetter trademark.
The companies are clear: without effective regulation, payment implants will never be adopted beyond the small cult of “transhumanists”.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we may earn a small commission. This helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any business relationship to affect our editorial independence.