Image courtesy of PRNewswire
Technology makes our lives easier, less cluttered, and above all just more fun. But in the case of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) , you may be getting your credit card stolen and not even know it. Some current credit cards and passports now sport an RFID chip, which makes payments quicker and easier by only having to swipe your card past a scanner. My local convenience store has them for certain cards and I know a lot of gas stations on the east coast have speedpass or another assortment of key chain type scanner. As great as dropping an extra 30 seconds from your purchase time, you may be putting yourself at risk of getting that information stolen. The worst part is the thief does it without even touching your wallet or seeing your card. I saw this on the news a week or so ago and decided to take a look into it a little more.
The simple process of credit card skimming can be done for less than $100. Your RFID enabled credit card emits a radio signal that basically transmits all the credit card information just as if it was ran through the traditional sliding credit card machine. A thief needs only to have his skimming gear setup and get within a close proximity of you to snag your information right out of the air. Watch a security specialist named Walt Augustinowicz use his home-made skimmer device and a netbook to steal people’s information right out of their wallets.
Even though Walt created this video to make the public aware of this digital theft, he also owns a company named Identity Stronghold which sells countermeasures to prevent this from happening to you. So the big question “are you at risk”? Are thieves able to fill Tiny Tim’s Christmas stocking with presents bought using your stolen credit card information? First you need to see if you credit card has an RFID tag. If you’ve been lugging your Visa card around for while and have not gotten a more recent one then you are probably not at risk. I looked at all my cards and none of them show any signs of having an RFID chip. Some resources claim that you should see 3 wavy lines somewhere on the card that represents radio signals of some sort. If you’re not sure call the number on the back of the card, they should be able to tell you if you’re transmitting your info to suspecting thieves or not.
From Identity Stronghold:
About 100 million credit cards now have this contactless technology embedded into them. However, over the next 2-3 years, it is expected that credit card issuers will replace every single magnetic stripe credit and debit card with a new contactless smartcard. Why shouldn’t they? These cards seem to make it all easier. So much easier that some folks are reading your credit cards before you even take them out of your wallet.
Personally I don’t find this to be too much of an issue for me. I do have a passport that is recent, so I assume it has a chip built-in. Although I am somewhat sloppy when it comes to online banking and digital theft, I really don’t find myself to be at too great of a risk. I do believe that the possibility does exists, but not enough to go to the Stronghold site and buy some protective sleeves. Although, I may change my tone if anything ever happened to my accounts. So you have to decide for yourself if a few bucks is worth some piece of mind.
Near Field Communications is now in some smartphones and it’s pretty obvious that we will be paying for stuff using this type of technology in the near future. Credit card companies claim their cards are all secure, but I do know plenty of people who have had some type of identity or bank account theft and will tell you otherwise. Not all RFID is bad, I mean we use it for a lot of good things too that really do make life easier. I just don’t know if I really need it in my credit cards or not, though.