Virtually Safe

Posted on March 29, 2012 1:02 pm under General
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Remember Citi’s identity theft commercials? I thought they were some of the funniest I had ever seen. Although identity theft was no laughing matter, I wasn’t too worried. I protected my cards and passwords. I carefully shredded documents with identifying information before discarding them. I had no problem recognizing phishing scams. I felt that most victims of identity theft had failed to take the proper precautions.

The introduction of RFID chips has made me feel less secure. RFID chips are used in contactless cards. These include many debit and credit cards, security badges and passports. Designed to avoid the need to swipe a card, the chip holds credit card numbers, expiration dates and other identifying information. This information can be read by specialized readers. While originally considered a safety measure, preventing others from handling your cards, the chips have introduced a new security risk. Since these readers can be acquired online and are relatively inexpensive, they can be used by others to read information from an RFID chip, even if your bank card is still in your wallet or purse. RFID readers are inconspicuous when attached to a cell phone. Think how many people you see on cell phones during an average trip to the grocery store.

I find the whole business quite unsettling. You can purchase a wallet or card holder that blocks RFID readers and that’s not a bad idea. Nevertheless, you’ll have to take the cards out at some point. Remember when people worried that online shopping might enable identity theft? Compared to the hazards that RFID chips present, its looking safer every day.

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