Not really a question – just a comment: I’ve heard that cards can be scanned
remotely by someone standing in line, at the checkout, for instance. I bought a
little card holder that protects you from this. Someone also just said that you
can just wrap the card in foil. If this is true, then the fraud may not come
from buying online. Just an FYI.
In this excerpt from Answercast #70, I look at identification technology on
credit cards that can be “sniffed” right out of your pocket.
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Stealing credit cards in line.
Yea, I’m actually aware of this, and in fact, it’s not really terribly
The technology is called, I think it’s RFID or perhaps even NFC (Near Field
Communications). The concept is that the credit card itself has a little
essentially radio transponder. It’s not powered. Obviously, there’s no battery
in your credit card, but it can be energized remotely by a radio signal and
when it is, it responds with information.
You must be close
It’s a very near-field kind of a thing. In other words, you have to be pretty
close to the card in order to activate this thing. In fact, you’ve probably
seen at some of the credit card terminals (at your grocery store, coffee shop,
or whatever); there will be a place where you can just wave your card over the
device, and the device then reads your information from the card.
Notice though that you actually have to get the card within a few inches of
the device in order for that to be read.
But you’re right. The fact is: the technology exists. In fact, I have heard
of people having their card’s information stolen this way.
It actually gets a little bit weirder because the same type of technology is
also used in, I believe, most newly issued United States passports. So the
passport itself can also be read without being opened by simply passing over
some kind of a reader.
Protecting your card
You’re right. Something as simple as a piece of foil over your card in your
wallet will do it.
As it turns out, because I’m aware of this (and I did notice that on one of
my credit cards: I carry three but only one of them actually has this
technology in it)… Because I noticed that and because I got a new passport, I
actually purchased (from ThinkGeek.com of all places) a wallet that includes
within it metal shielding.
There’s actually no loose foil in the wallet. But if you feel the outside of
the wallet, you can feel that there’s some crinkly stuff underneath the fake
leather. That’s essentially foil of some sort protecting or shielding the
card inside from anybody trying to activate it from outside your wallet.
I also have a similar thing for my passport; same place ThinkGeek.com had
it. It’s a passport holder that… same thing – it’s got some foil in its
lining that prevents the thing from being able to be read externally.
Does your card have it?
It is something to be aware of, especially if you carry these kinds
of cards. You can normally tell if they have them because there will be a
little indicator on the back of the card that has a picture (it’s almost a
Wi-Fi-ish or radio-ish type of logo) that will indicate that the card supports
If you’re in crowded places regularly, you might want to look into some kind
of a radio shielding wallet or other kind of sleeve for these cards. At least
be aware of this particular problem as a possible way that card information can
It is not very common right… now – both in terms in the number of cards
that have the technology and the number of people that are out swiping this
information using this technique.
The fact is: there are easier ways for thieves to get a hold of your credit
card. Most notably just stealing your wallet. But it is something to be aware
Like I said, the credit card companies are also aware of this. They are
doing the traditional thing of trading off convenience versus risk, since they
pick up the liability if your credit card gets stolen. It’s usually not that
big of an issue for you, other than the hassle of having to get a new credit
card if something happens.
Thanks for the information. It’s a good reminder for everybody.