According to the latest estimates, more than 1 billion credit cards, passports and IDs have been released with an RFID embedded chip technology. This new technology is designed to speed up the checkout process at retailers and streamline the scanning of ID’s and passports. For the new credit cards, consumers simply wave their card in front of a wireless scanner and the credit card information is transmitted to the payment processor. This has sped up payments, but it has also opened up a new wave of cyber crime called wireless skimming, Wireless identity theft, contactless identity theft or RFID identity theft.
All a hacker needs is a wireless scanner, which is available online for under $100. The cyber thief can then wirelessly steal the credit card information, including the credit card number and expiration date from any card with an embedded RFID chip wirelessly. The one hindrance is the attacker needs to be in close proximity to the card or passport, usually within a few inches to a few feet depending on the range of the wireless scanner. That hindrance is easy to overcome given that people spend a lot of time standing in line, or in crowded places, especially when traveling.
Visa, MasterCard, American Express and other credit card companies have stated that RFID technology is safe, and that state of the art fraud detection prevents abuse of the system. Field tests however have shown that the system can still be exploited. Consumers are not liable for the fraudulent charges, but retailers and banks must make up for those losses with higher prices. Leo Hamel, chief security at Elk & Bear, said, “All of us pay for this fraud in the long run. Retailers are estimating the loss in the billions with wireless skimming. Those losses will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.”
How does one protect their identity and credit? One way is to contact the financial institution and request a credit card without an embedded chip. If that isn’t an option, one can purchase inexpensive credit card and passport protector sleeves. Elk & Bear has several designs to choose from to fit many different tastes. The protectors contain a specially engineered metallic lining that effectively blocks RFID chips from transmitting data while inside the sleeve. They will also protect against loss of personal data from Nexus cards, Enhanced Driver’s License and passports. Elk & Bear credit card and passport protectors are available exclusively on Amazon.com.