RFID Can Put Millions of Credit Cards at Risk

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RFID might not be as secure as we thought.

Protecting your identity and your credit card information is so very important. These days, with so many purchases occurring online, keeping your information secure is even more difficult. Credit card fraud is a huge headache and especially if the card is debit/check card, the stakes can be even higher.

For example, if you find fraudulent charges on your traditional credit card statement, it's fairly easy to contact the card company and report the matter. It might take a few weeks, or even a few months, to resolve, but waiting for a credit isn't terribly difficult. On the other hand, when the card is connected to your checking account, waiting that long to get the money put back in can be devastating. Especially if you live paycheck to paycheck or are unemployed and looking for a job.

Recently, there have been some heated debates about the security of the RFID chips that are in most active credit cards. Opponents of the technology say that the RFID chips can be tricked into making fraudulent transactions.

In order to prove the point, a researcher named Kristin Paget demonstrated how easy it is to hack the RFID chip on stage during a hacker conference. The process she used was extremely simple. In her demonstration, she "stole" someone's credit card, embedded it into a blank magnetic card and paid herself $15. She managed to do all of that without even looking at or touching the other persons card.

Of course there was no actual theft during her demonstration. She asked for a willing volunteer and paid the person $20 for using their card.

So, how did she do it? She used an easy and cheap RFID reader to get the victims credit card number, expiration date and CCV code. Then, she put the information on a blank card using a magnetizing tool that can be purchased for around $300. From there, it was a simple process to make a replica card. Next, she swiped the card using an iPhone attachment that allows people to accept credit cards, and paid herself $15.

What's even more scary is that there are devices that ping any nearby RFID chips that can be purchased for as little as $2. With one of those devices, all a credit card thief needs to do is get close to someone who has a credit card. Some cards have security measures that only activates the RFID when it is close range of a reader, which make things a little more difficult, but still not impossible. In those cases, the thief only needs to bump into their victim in order to get the information. Once they have the RFID info, they can create a replica and start shopping.

RFID chips are being used almost everywhere. At stores like Walmart, they use them to keep track of their inventory, and many people even have these chips implanted in their pets in case the pet gets lost. They are also used in important documents like passports.

Although there haven't been many cases of credit card fraud caused by exploiting the RFID chip, now that it has been explained so easily, I would imagine that it will become the credit card hack du juor. Unfortunately, the only way to protect your card is to either carry them in a wallet made from stainless steel fabric or just stop carrying them around when you don't plan on using them.

What do you think about the security of RFID? Have you experienced credit card fraud? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for FinancialJobBank and Nexxt. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Holy, Credit scores certainly are important when you're trying to qualify for a mortgage. That's why it's so important to secure your personal information so that you won't fall victim to identity theft.
  • HolyH
    the answer to that denepds on your current credit score and the factors affecting it. you need to meet with a reputable mortgage loan officer, have your credit run and go over your finances (income and assets) with them. if, with the scores the way they are, you qualify for a new mortgage while carrying the debt then the choice is yours. if not, the loan officer should run a program called a  credit analyzer  which will tell you what debt to pay down and how much to pay and approximately what difference you can expect in you credit score.  the goal of raising your score is to have you qualify for ALL future credit (your new mortgage, future credit cards, car loans and leases etc) at the lowest rate possible.keep in mind, many lenders are now eliminating no down payment and small down payment programs and many of the ones that are left require higher credit scores so the meeting with the loan officer and determining how best to use your money is a must. sometimes even a slightly larger down payment can make a big different in your rate / payment.

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