Do RFID credit cards put you at risk for identity theft or fraud?
This is the part we’re all curious about, right? According to RFID.org, RFID technology can be read through the human body, clothing and nonmetallic materials. The human body? Not sure I want to pursue exactly what that means, but a recent demonstration shows how RFID cards can easily be read if someone gets close enough to you.
Security expert Walt Augustinowicz made the news after he was able to “read” credit card numbers from wallets and handbags while walking along a busy street. He bought a $100 reader online and, armed with a Netbook, got close enough to people to get their card information.
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) keeps a watchful eye on these things. The ITRC recently issued a release about the safety of RFID credit cards saying, “…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.”
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I noted that they said committing fraud is “probably not easy.” The ITRC says that some RFID manufacturers have implemented security features, such as encryption and authentication codes. But I don’t think anyone wants to come out and say they’re definitely secure. The payment networks, such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover, say that the multiple layers of security prevent fraudsters from using the data they retrieve.
If you’re worried, there are secure sleeves you can buy to prevent your card numbers from being read. Or, you can line your wallet with aluminum foil. At this point, I don’t think we need get in panic mode about this, but I like knowing that the ITRC will continue to monitor these cards. For now, if you have an RFID credit card, the best course of action is to regularly check your account online. And take notice if someone gets way too close to you on a busy street or in a crowded mall.