In todays world, everyone shares close quarters. Whether your in the mall, at the airport, taking the subway, or just walking to work, there is a good chance that you can become a victim of a pickpocket. Well now it’s even easier than ever for thieves. With a small high-tech gadget, thieves can now pickpocket you and all your personal information, without laying a finger on you or your wallet. So how is that possible?
Many of the items carried in wallets and purses, such as ID card, credit cards, passports, and access cards, contain a small chip that send short range radio signals. Through Radio Frequency Indefication (RFID), these signals are read or downloaded by devices that we all encounter everyday, such as ID, passport, and credit card scanners. But now, the technology and convienance that comes with these devises, comes back to empty out of your wallet, literally. With a small hand-held credit card reader, which can be found online for $10-$15, thieves can simply download all your RFID’s with a slight flick of the wrist. That’s right, all a pickpocket has to do, is simply wave the reader within a short distance of your back pocket or purse, and they can download your credit card numbers, expiration dates, and personal information from passports and security ID’s. So their is no need for them to even attempt to take your wallet or purse, because now they will actually have it, without you even knowing about it.
On May 25, 2010, WABC Eyewitness News aired the story that included an interview by Walt Augustinowicz, owner of “Identity Stronghold”, which is an identity-theft security company. Augustinowicz is very familiar with the operation and uses of credit card readers by thieves, since his company sells a protective sleeve, that blocks the RFID signals from being read. With a $10 reader that he bought on Ebay, Augustinowicz and WABC set out to test the ability of it, in the Borough Hall subway station in Brooklyn, New York. Several trusting commuters let them try to skim their RFID’s, but most of them didn’t have any cards containing the chips. One commuter did have credit cards containing RFID chips, and in a matter of seconds, all the information was downloaded. When questioned about it, she replied, “I though it would require a lot more technology than that. I mean thats a $10 device.”
So what can you do to protect yourself from becoming a victim? Well here are a few tips to protect yourself and your identity.
– Most importantly, something that you should be doing already, monitor your credit card statements and credit reports regularly, in search of odd charges or discrepancies.
– Leave unused RFID credit cards at home. Don’t carry them with you at all times and try using cards without RFID’s.
– If leaving the RFID credit cards at home is not an option, look into purchasing a protective credit card shield, that will prevent readers from downloading your data. Specially made wallets that are manufactured with materials that have been approved by the Government Services Administration to block RFID transmissions.
– If your carrying several RFID credit cards, stack them all together, putting the cards next to one another will make them harder to be scanned.
– Keep passports and security ID’s in protective sleeves. There is a warning label right on the back of your passport, recommending it.
– As in any situation, always be attentive by paying attention to your surroundings. People that are too caught up in something or don’t seem like they are paying attention, are most commonly preyed upon by thieves.
– Avoid standing too close to people in public places if you can. In many congested areas you will have no choice and this is where you have to pay close attention to your surroundings. With all the congestion and commotion that comes with it, it is very easy for a thief to commit his crime and slip away.
Always remember that just like everything else in this world, there are always 2 sides to he coin, and the same applies to technology. With the benefits, there always comes risk, so keep yourself protected. It is much easier to spend a few minutes here and there to keep your information secure, than it will be if your a victim, and have to go through all the procedures to clear the situation up. In some severe cases of identity theft, it can be as involved as people having to completely change all their information, to get it all resolved.
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