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RFID Cards: A Greater Credit Card Fraud Risk?

Vanessa here, with AllClear ID. “Smart Cards,” credit cards embedded with RFID chips, are getting more attention as more banks issue them to their customers.
What is RFID – and why is it in my credit card? An RFID (radio-frequency identification) credit card has a radio frequency microprocessor inside it that contains your card information. When you check out at the register, you wave your smart card within a few inches of an RFID-enabled terminal. The terminal reads your data, transmitted via radio waves, and completes your purchase. This is the technology used at unmanned tollbooths that let you drive right through.
But unbeknownst to you, you may have one of these cards without even knowing it. RFID cards look like your standard credit card, and some even have the magnetic stripe on the back of the card so that you can also swipe it to pay.
Do RFID credit cards put you at risk for identity theft or fraud? Bo Holland, Debix founder and CEO, says yes. In a recent television interview, he said having a smart card on you turns you into a walking radio station. Because it’s broadcasting frequency or your information all the time, even while you’re walking down the street, thieves can steal your information. “With 100 dollars worth of equipment and a little bit of knowledge that you can get off of the Internet, you can actually read these cards,” said Holland.
But even if someone can steal your credit card account number, can they use the information to buy purchases or steal your identity? The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), which tracks card fraud issues, recently issued a statement about the safety of RFID credit cards, saying it “believes in both the technology and the companies that are using it” keeps a watchful eye on these things. They also note that “…it is apparent so far that although scanning the card can be done, getting all the necessary information useful to commit fraud is probably not easy.”
Still, if you’re concerned, there are some easy steps you can take to “lower the frequency” on your RFID cards and keep your data more secure:

  • Leave your RFID credit card at home, and use it only for online purchases. Pay for brick-and-mortar purchases with cash or regular credit cards.
  • Wrap your RFID card in aluminum foil before putting it in your wallet – this simple technique apparently blocks the chip’s radio frequency from transmitting.
  • Consider buying a “credit card shield” for more protection. There are a number of companies that make card shields and wallets made out of aluminum or stainless steel to block’ RFID-reading scanners.
    • Take notice if someone gets way too close to you on a busy street or in a crowded mall – they might be wielding a scanner.
    • Monitor your credit card statements regularly for errors or odd charges.
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