More and more credit cards are being put out with a chip embedded in them which makes them wireless; also called contact-less. It also makes them vulnerable to a super stealthy form of pickpocketing.
There is a great deal of information available lately, on the subject of the Radio Frequency chip that is being put into credit cards. Forbes magazine ran articles about the problems with these chips more than a year ago. A well-known security researcher and consultant gave a talk and a demonstration at a conference which had an audience of hundreds of hackers and security researchers. There are many, many more examples of how many people have tried to get the word out about how culpable these scannable chips are.
Security personnel have gone to malls and street corners to demonstrate how, even from a few feet away, the perpetrator can read all the data needed to make a fraudulent transaction off that card, and do it invisibly through a wallet, purse, or pocket.
Thieves can get an RFID Scanner for less than $50 that will scan credit cards right through a pocket or wallet. When they do so the account information is theirs, and one may never know when it happened.
And, it may be some time before the card holder knows someone else is using his card.
It is common these days to pay bills on line, often automatically right from a bank account. Do people using this service check their statements at least each month. For some, probably not.
Many banks call their patrons if something very different from the normal purchasing pattern occurs on a card. But, small purchases, even made daily, might not raise a red flag. It is conceivable quite a bill could be raised before anyone realizes what is happening. Is the bank going to believe those were not the purchases of the card holder, when he/she still has the card in hand?
Even though the security industry has known since 2006 that contact-less credit cards can be read without the owner’s knowledge, little has been done to discourage their production. People are advised to protect their cards as the contact-less, wireless, credit card will soon be commonplace.
So what can be done about it?
Perhaps the simplest solution, is to kill your card’s RFID chip by frying it in the microwave. But that’s a more delicate task than it might seem. Three seconds in the microwave will kill the chip. Five seconds will set it on fire.
RFID shielding wallets are currently available. They simply shield cards or passports with a layer of aluminum. They seem to be the best and easiest solution yet found. These cards are thin and lightweight and will fit easily into pocket or purse.