There is a new wave of Hi-Tech Identity Theft that the average person has no idea is possible. Identity Thieves are able to steal your credit card information without even touching your wallet.
RFID, or radio-frequency identity technology was introduced to make paying for items faster and easier. What many probably didn’t expect is that the same technology can be used by thieves to get your payment information just as easily. All major credit cards that have this technology have a symbol (pictured to the right). It means that your card can communicate via electromagnetic waves to exchange data (your credit card number) between a terminal and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of identification. With a quick scan of the card, the same way you would scan it to pay for items, all of your payment information is directed towards a source or identity thief’s computer in this case.
With a laptop and an antenna, it’s possible that a virtual pickpocket can steal credit card information, without ever touching their victim. All that is needed is a credit card reader that you can purchase online and a laptop computer. With a simple scan the crook can lift your credit card number, expiration date, and in some cases your name. Since 2006 all U.S. passports also have RFID technology so identity thieves are able to scan those just as easily and pick up more personal information in order to rip you off. These passports contain specific contact information as well as date of birth.
The statistics on this type of theft are not available because the detection rate is low and it is so new. There would be no way right now to prove that this method was used over other similar methods that steal your card information. There are a few ways you can protect yourself.
First, set up account alerts and monitor your statements. That way if your credit card is compromised you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card. Second there are sleeves and wallets built to protect your cards and make them unable to scan and be lifted. Several companies make products that create an RFID shield by blocking the electromagnetic energy necessary to power and communicate with contactless smart cards, passports, and enhanced drivers licenses.
Before you finish this article, pull out all of your cards to see if they have the sonar symbol above. Even one of these puts you at risk.
John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010), a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.