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rfid credit cardElectronic Pickpockets: Thieves Who Care Enough To Steal the Very Best
by Marjorie Dorfman

Technology aiding the criminal is hardly the way to go in this high tech, mechanized, dynamic cosmos of ours where everything is obsolete almost as soon as it is created. Read on for some astonishing news about electronic pickpocketing, a phenomenon that is sure to make shoppers shudder and thieves jubilant.

If it weren’t for pickpockets, I’d have no sex at all. ~ Rodney Dangerfield

pickpocket in jail Why would anyone want to make it easier for a pickpocket to rob innocent people? This question lingers in the angry air as people learn about the expanded ability of thieves to steal YOUR credit card information without laying a hand on your wallet.

We can only suppose that its creators meant well, but don’t forget about that old road to hell and with what it is paved.

This new and very controversial protocol concerns radio frequency identification technology (RFID) and its use in credit and debit cards has already left nearly 140 million people at risk for electronic pickpocketing. Its original purpose was to make paying for things easier and faster, as all that would be required is waving the card in the air. But the downside far outweighs any convenience this technology may offer.

The founder of Identity Stronghold whose company markets secure sleeves and ID holders that are designed to block hacking by RFID, is Walt Augustinowicz.

In his own words:

"If I’m walking through a crowd, I get near people’s back pocket and their wallet, I just need to be this close to it and there’s my credit card and expiration date on the screen…We’ve done it… We’ve picked up the phone, called 800 numbers, ordered stuff under a fake name, shipped it to a foreclosed home and the product comes in the mail."

stealing old-fashioned way As an effective thief, the only equipment he needs to buy is a credit card reader, which he can get for under $100 on-line and a net-book computer. Bad guys and gals can quickly work a crowd, steal numbers and email them anywhere in the world. If this isn’t bad enough, it’s not just credit and debit cards that are at risk. Passports had posed a more difficult challenge to hackers before 2006 at which time RFID technology that can be read and stolen was introduced.

According to University of Memphis professor Mark Gillenson:

"It’s potentially a major problem. I think people do need to be concerned and do need to be aware and we’ll see if this becomes problematic."

So how can we protect ourselves against this electronic scourge?

empty pockets For one thing, we can all buy secure sleeves for our cards or specially lined wallets. (No agenda here; author has no stock in any of these products.) Aluminum foil will also block scanners if you don’t wish to make an investment. You can also defeat electronic theft by carrying two cards embedded with radio frequency identification. The signals will cancel each other out and protect you from electronic muggers.

In the words of Randy Hutchinson, head of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South:

"Ten, eleven million people a year are victims... A big part of this is fraudulent use of credit cards…Crooks are adept at exploiting and overcoming technology. So I couldn’t rule out that it could happen at some time. What the bad guys don't realize is that we’re a step ahead of them."

burglar rat If there is a moral to this story, it remains obscure, but one thing is certain:

We must not make lives easier for crooks, and there’s something wrong if that is what is happening.

Wake up high-techers; there are other considerations.

While you are at it (waking up), hang onto your wallet for dear life.

Did you know . . .

Here's another extremely helpful book:

rfid essentialsRFID Essentials (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly))

by Bill Glover and Himanshu Bhatt

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is rapidly changing the way businesses track inventory and assets. From Wal-Mart and Tesco to the U.S. Department of Defense, early efforts are already showing benefits, but software, integration, and data processing for RFID still present a challenge. With the knowledge you gain in these pages, you will possess the information and understanding you need to start designing, building, or integrating with RFID systems.

Here's what we chose for protection in a purse or a pocket:

safe walletTravelon RFID Blocking Billfold

One person’s experience:
My workplace has an RFID reader at the entrance to gain access. I put my access card in my leather wallet to see if it could be read thru the wallet. I was surprised when it read the card from approximately 3 inches away. I then put the card in the RFID blocking wallet. The card couldn’t be read even with the wallet pressed up against the reader.

The wallet is the Bi-fold style. The size of the wallet folded is approximately 4 1/2" L x 3 1/2" H. There are six card slots and room to slide additional cards under the card slots. There’s more than enough room for standard sized cards. The materials and craftsmanship appear to be of good quality. Only time will tell. All in all, I’m very pleased with this item and it gives me one less thing to worry about for added peace of mind.

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Don't miss this excellent book:

RFID Technology and Applications

by Stephen B. Miles, Sanjay E. Sarma and John R. Williams, editors


Covering both passive and active RFID systems, the challenges to RFID implementation are addressed using specific industry research examples and common integration issues. Key topics include RF tag performance optimization, evaluation methodologies for RFID, RFID in the retail supply chain. The book brings together insights from the world’s leading research laboratories in the field, including the Auto-ID Labs at MIT, successor to the Auto-ID Center which developed the Electronic Product Code scheme set to become the global standard for product identification.

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