Contact-less Credit Cards Can Lead to Contact-Less Crime

Roughly 200 million RFID credit cards in circulation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Though issuers downplay the risks, RFID technology in credit and debit cards could be putting consumers at risk. Kim Vatis explains. (Published Monday, May 7, 2012)

    While card issuers downplay the risks, a technology increasingly found in credit and debit cards could allow those with the know-how to reach into your wallet without you ever knowing.

    The technology is called Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID. Its "contact-less" nature is billed as a way to make shopping easier, with about 200 million cards using the technology in circulation.

    But with a device hidden in an iPad case, a security consultant demonstrated how easy it is to lift credit card numbers from passersby on the street.

    "We found it’s convenient for thieves, very convenient," said Walt Augustinowicz, the owner of a consumer protection business called Identity Stronghold. He makes protective credit card sleeves and wallets that prevent your credit card from transmitting your information. Aluminum foil also works.

    But credit card companies questioned about the potential for fraud downplayed the potential, stating that names and cards and the card's security codes aren't transmitted.

    "There have been no reports or complaints from consumers who have been issued cards with RFID technology," said Randy Vanderhoof, an industry advocate with Smart Card Alliance.

    Augustinowicz wasn't appeased.

    "To tell people don’t worry about it, it’s almost criminal," he said. "We’ve made phone purchases. We’ve made Internet purchases.”

    He said he's even been able to scan the information onto a hotel room key, walk into a store and make a purchase.  He says

    It's "everything you need to clean out your account," he said.

    Credit card issuers also said they issue refunds to customers who have fallen victim to fraud.

    Smart Card Alliance: Contactless Payment Security