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Credit card theft "out of pocket" is possible with a new technology. And yes, foil in a wallet is a way to "foil" the thieves.
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.
Yea, I'm actually aware of this, and in fact, it's not really terribly common... yet.
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.
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.
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.
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 this technology.
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 be stolen.
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 of.
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.
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