Is My RFID Credit-Card Data in Danger of Being Stolen?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsIs My RFID Credit-Card Data in Danger of Being Stolen?
RFID Journal Staff asked 3 years ago

I have a question regarding RFID readers and security. Recently, I noticed an unauthorized transaction from my debit card to a local merchant. Now, my financial institution is reimbursing the amount to my account, but I have to wonder what I can do, as a consumer, to protect my debit and credit cards. My wallet never left my sight at the time of this transaction, and I was not in this particular store.

My wife had purchased one of those lock wallets, but I have had my cards hacked before after using it. An article in AARP magazine suggested cutting two pieces of cardboard to card size, wrapping them in aluminum foil and placing them at the opposite sides of the wallet. Any suggestions or recommendations would be deeply appreciated.

—Jerry

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Jerry,

Most credit-card companies moved away from RFID after briefly experimenting with the technology. RFID was far more secure than mag-stripe cards, but journalists and companies selling wallets hyped the threat of your card being stolen via RFID. Your card data was almost certainly not stolen via RFID. It probably doesn’t have RFID in it, in fact—but if it does, the data was probably not stolen via RFID. There are other ways to get your information. One is by hacking databases. Another is by installing card readers where you use your card.

I had my credit card used in Seattle (I live in New York) to buy an airline ticket to two cities I have never visited. This was years before RFID was introduced into cards. A few years ago, I received a call from my bank saying my card had been stolen. I said it was in my wallet, which it was. They asked me if I used it at a nail salon in Chicago, and I said “Certainly not.” They said it was stolen and sent me a new card. Again, this card did not have RFID.

Most likely, your name and number were stolen by someone who had hacked a database. If you still are worried about RFID, the suggestion by AARP to use a foil liner is a good one, as radio waves cannot penetrate metal.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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