RFID: Scaring Holiday Shoppers For Years & Years

Well here’s something to freak you out as you brave the Black Friday crowds today. (Remember: Matt wrote a nifty little survival guide for today’s insanity.) A local TV station in Florida has warned its viewers to be on the lookout for so-called electronic pickpockets. Using “a credit card scanner attached to a battery pack,” an evildoer can quite easily obtain sensitive credit and debit card information—without you even knowing! Yes: it’s yet another warning about the dangers of RFID.

The story says that many of today’s credit and debit cards have RFID chips built into them (as do new passports here in the US), and that a person so inclined could be able to rig together a simple device that scans for these chips. The implied threat is that some nefarious individual could be walking around the local Wal-Mart or Best Buy, device in hand, and steal your credit card information. The worst case scenario would be for someone to take this information and then use it to clone your credit card.

Now, the actual odds of this happening at your local Middle America Wal-Mart probably aren’t too great, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few steps to keep yourself safe.

You could ask your bank for a non-RFID card, for one. You can also buy a specialized wallet (the one mentioned in the story is here) that shields the cards from scanning devices.

Or, most fun, you can destroy the RFID chip while it’s still inside the card. See YouTube for fun videos to that effect.