Have You Been E-Pickpocketed - Without Even Knowing it? | Crime

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Have You Been E-Pickpocketed - Without Even Knowing it?
Have You Been E-Pickpocketed - Without Even Knowing it?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It can happen anywhere. In an urban shopping center like the Jacksonville Landing or a sporting event like a baseball game.

"Is this a good thing or a bad thing? " ask one cardholder.

Bad - it can happen right under your nose.

New technology used in smart cards, speed passes and newly issued passports make it easier for a pickpocket to steal your card information.

It is called electronic pick pocketing. Walt Augustinowicz, a former insurance executive, has the ability to walk through a crowd and pickpocket credit card information.

"The biggest vulnerability is the fact that they don't know," said Augustinowicz.

Cards with RFID or contactless technology are broadcasting data, he said. Augustinowicz's company, Identity Stronghold, has developed wallets and sleeves to protect RFID cards from broadcasting.

"In the next two to three years, you can expect just about every magnetic stripe card to be replaced with this new technology," said Augustinowicz.

He can use his new Smartphone and an electronic sniffer hidden in his iPad case to pickpocket credit card information.

"We have actually taken that information, put it on a hotel card key, and walked into a store and bought something using that information," he said.

Augustinowicz said all it takes is a card reader purchased online, a battery and a bluetooth transmitter. He said there are 100 million cards with RFID - some are identifiable and some are not.

"If your card doesn't have the chip yet, it is going to," he said.

His critics in the smart card industry question his motives, saying he is just trying to sell his shields. "That's not the case. I developed the product to protect myself, when I thought I would have an ID card with that technology in it," he said.

Augustinowicz said he is just trying to protect consumers, and believed as more banks turn to RFID cards, more consumers will become vulnerable to electronic pickpocketing.

"They're tremendously vulnerable simply because you got that wireless aspect coupled with the fact that they don't know," he said. "All I have to do is get close to the card and it just read my credit card number."

Augustinowicz said you can protect your card by:

  • Wrapping it in household aluminum foil
  • Purchasing a shield sleeve to hold your card
  • Requesting the bank to issue a standard credit card if it is available

Randy Vanderhoof is executive director of Smart Card Alliance,   a non-profit association that works to stimulate the understanding, adoption and widespread application of smart card technology.

He defends the use of the technology.

A few questions:

Are these cards as vulnerable as they seem?
The industry response is that we have confirmed with the brands, the issuers, and law enforcement agencies that this type of RFID skimming attacks are not being reported by consumers. The reason criminals are not using this approach to capture personal credit card data is that there are layers of security in the payments industry beyond the account number and expiration date that prevent criminals from making cloned copies ... or using that data to make online purchases with only the information captured from the card. Criminals are not wasting their time with this type of crime because they can't profit from it.

Are these cards safe from skimmers?
Contactless cards are totally safe. More than 75 million people are using them every day without any problems, and like all credit cards that can be stolen by thieves, if something happens to you, your bank will provide you with 100 percent protection for any fraudulent charges that you report.


Contactless (RFID) Payment Security: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riDzEE6XrNE
Video explains security features built into contactless (RFID enabled) credit and debit cards

Contactless (RFID) Payment Security, by Mark Roberti, editor of the RFID Journal
Roberti on security features

Contactless (RFID) Payment Security, by Jay Foley, Identity Theft Resource Center
Jay Foley on security features         


















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