Protect your RFID cardsWORTHINGTON — Credit and debit cards are the way of the world these days, with most people reaching for that piece of plastic with more ease than they pull out legal tender. But if a new or replacement card has arrived in the mail lately, taking a close look at the symbols on it is probably a good idea.
WORTHINGTON — Credit and debit cards are the way of the world these days, with most people reaching for that piece of plastic with more ease than they pull out legal tender. But if a new or replacement card has arrived in the mail lately, taking a close look at the symbols on it is probably a good idea.
Many credit and debit cards, along with U.S. passports, now include RFID technology — Radio Frequency Identification. The small chips embedded in the cards transmit the identity, generally in the form of a unique serial number, of an object or person wirelessly, using radio waves.
Employers use the RFID technology in ID badges so their employees can access secured areas without having to swipe the card through a reader. Another popular use is for people to pay for toll roads. Some public transit operations are using RFID as well.
The danger lies in the possibility of ID theft. Financial card “skimmers” had to get their hands on a card at one point to skim the number from it. With RFID, the information is transmitted to a reader.
“It is fairly new technology for credit cards,” said Worthington Det. Kevin Flynn. “And now people have developed the scanners that can read the cards through a wallet or purse.”
With a card reader, a personal computer and a bit of know-how, mining the information off the cards is not that difficult, according to numerous YouTube videos and demonstrations.
To protect against this form of ID theft, Flynn said the easiest thing to do is keep any RFID cards in a plastic case, which will shut down the signal.
A variety of protective sleeves and wallets are available for purchase through many retailers, as are sleeves for passports and other cards. Identity Stronghold, one company that makes the RFID protective devices, says more than 100 million credit cards have the contactless technology. Not sure if your card is one of the 100 million? Credit and debit cards with RFID chips have a small symbol like that of radio waves growing.
Flynn said he has not heard of any cases of RFID skimming in Worthington or southwest Minnesota, but wanted citizens to be aware.