It has been said that we have technologically advanced more in the last 15 years then we did the previous 200 years. I'm sure this can be debated but the point I'm trying to make however, is how fast technology enters our everyday life. These innovations drive business and economies but they also attract elicit opportunity. We couldn't possibly discuss all so let's focus one innovation which has emerged over the last few years, contactless payment on debit and credit cards and its vulnerability.
Not so long ago when out with friend’s I was presented the bill for some drinks and opted to pay contactless. The waitress handed me the machine and for reason unbeknown to me I decide to test a theory. I placed the machine against my friend’s pocket where I know his wallet was and ping, the payment was made! This eureka moment prompted a frenzied game for the rest of the evening whereby we would try and scam a member of our group card and to varying degrees of success.
This event prompted some investigation into what I later discovered is termed RFID Theft. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is the use of radio waves to deliver and read information that is stored on the card and can be read by a card reader. Here is the critical element, it does not need to be in direct line of site and in some tests, I’ve conducted, it can be 8 inches away.
Now before everyone decides to cut up their cards and revert back to cash, it’s worth mentioning that there are limits set by the bank to reduce impact and for those who feel strongly, you can request to have the contactless option removed. For me however, I like the freedom contactless gives me, not to mention I don’t have to keep potently compromising my pin number in public every time, which could mean bigger financial loses.
How to protect your cards.
The solution is not that difficult. Through simply understanding these vulnerabilities I dare say most of us would be able to reduce our exposure to financial loss through RFID scamming or other card financial theft. Nevertheless, here are some simple steps we can take to protect the integrity of our plastic money.
To protect your card from the contactless scam mentioned above you can use blocking technology. This comes in many forms from wallets and purses lined with material that blocks the RFID signal to very inexpensive sleeves (like the example in the photo) to protect the card itself.
When you pay using contactless don’t hand the card over to the cashier, get them to bring the reader to you. This will remove the possibility of a duplicate payment being made.
Always make sure your card is in sight when paying. If you need to hand over your card don’t let the cashier leave your table with it and never let anyone photo copy your card. This is the surest way to empty your account.
If you need to use your pin for card transactions, ensure you shield from view when entering the number. The simplest way is to use your body bag or for hand held machines, hold close to your chest. And, never carry your number written down in your purse and wallet.
Through implementing these simple measures, you will almost remove the opportunity for RFID theft and cut in half your overall exposure to debit and credit card fraud.