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Sileo Deflates ePickPocketing Hype on Fox & Friends

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John appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to set the facts straight about the real and perceived risks posed by Electronic PickPocketing.

It is true that Identity Thieves are able to steal your credit card information without even touching your wallet. The technology exists, is readily available and can be assembled for under $1,000. But that doesn’t necessarily make it an efficient means of stealing credit card numbers.

RFID, or radio-frequency identity technology was introduced to make paying for items faster and easier.  All major credit cards that have this technology have a symbol (pictured below). It means that your card can communicate via electromagnetic waves to exchange data (your credit card number) between a terminal and a chip installed inside of your card (or passport). Thus, by getting within a few inches of your credit card, a thief is able to obtain your credit card number, expiration date and maybe your name.

So we have established that stealing credit card numbers this way is possible, but is it feasible?

The Electronic Pickpocketing video circulating around YouTube makes it look that way. But the reality is a bit different. First, take into account that the news story in the video was focused around a gentleman and a company that makes money by raising your fear about this type of theft. The gentleman they interview runs a company that makes shields for your credit cards and passports to stop electronic pickpocketing. I’m not saying that the products don’t work or aren’t somewhat valid; I’m saying that you have to take the context of the story into consideration before buying the hype.

The reality is that electronic pickpocketing is extremely time and resource intensive. Most thieves are smart enough to know that they are better served hacking into a database with hundreds of thousands of records rather than collecting them one at a time.

Here are just a few reasons why this threat, though real, is overblown:

  • While the RFID scanner itself can be purchased for under $100, you also need $500-$1,000 worth of additional equipment (laptop, blue tooth transmitter, cables, power supply, etc.) to make it a practical, mobile kit.
  • Once the thief has the kit, they need to get within 2-3 inches of your purse or wallet for 3-5 seconds on as many victims as possible without getting caught. This might be easy on a subway, but it gets much more difficult as people spread out.
  • When a thief steals this information from you, they generally get your credit card number, expiration date and quite possibly your name. They DO NOT get your 3-digit security code or address. This is the same amount of information that the average waiter or retail clerk gets simply by looking at your card.
  • Because they don’t get your 3-digit security code or address, it is much more difficult for them to use the credit card number to make purchases on the internet, as most sites require some form of address verification or 3-digit security confirmation.
  • Only a fraction of cards utilize the RFID/Contactless Swipe technology, lowering your chances significantly.
  • As long as you catch your card being used fraudulently (see the protection suggestions below), you will not be held liable for the losses, the business that accepted the illegal card will. Even if your information is used to make a new card, if you are monitoring your identity properly, your out of pocket will be minimal.
  • Fraud departments in credit card companies have come a long way. Most credit card companies are able to detect fraud on your card faster that you can. More secure credit card companies will call to confirm suspicious purchases or purchasing patterns.

But it can happen, and it’s worth preventing. Which is simple:

  • First, check to see if you even have credit cards with the ability to beam your information to an RFID receiver (look for the circled symbol in the photo to the right). If not, stop worrying and just monitor any future cards you receive.
  • Next, set up account alerts and monitor your statements to cover yourself in the small chance that it happens to you. That way if your credit card is compromised, you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card.
  • If you are worried about having a credit card that can transmit your personal information, call your credit card company and ask them to send you a card that doesn’t transmit or have RFID capabilities (you know it transmits if it has the small broadcast or sonar icon circled to the left). Get rid of the source of the fraud!
  • Never leave your purse or wallet in an easy-to-scan place. Get rid of all of the excess credit cards that you don’t use and lower the chances that one of them will be compromised.
  • For added protection, especially for your Passport (which carries a much higher volume of very sensitive information), consider purchasing a sleeve or shield that makes RFID scanning less likely.

But whatever you do, don’t buy into the hype and paranoia just because a video has gone viral on YouTube.

John Sileo speaks professionally on identity theft, data breach, social networking exposure and fraud. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include Fox and Friends. Learn more about having him deliver a high-content keynote speech at your next meeting or conference. Contact him on 800.258.8076.

Sileo on Fox & Friends Tomorrow – Electronic Pickpocketing

Join Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade as they interview John Sileo about [intlink id=”3800″ type=”post”]electronic pickpocketing[/intlink] and the viral video that started the [intlink id=”3848″ type=”post”]hype[/intlink]. Tune in Thursday, December 16th (time TBD) on Fox News (National, not local).

Sileo will discuss the true risks of electronic pickpocketing.  Is RFID technology a huge threat to credit card holders?  Is it something we should be worried about, or just a scare tactic to boost sales of card-protection products? Tune in to hear more!

John Sileo is the award-winning author of two identity theft prevention books, Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010) and America’s top Identity Theft Speaker. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.

Electronic Pickpocketing Hype Banks on Your Fear!

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Electronic Pickpocketing is Possible, but Over-Hyped.

There is a new wave of hi-tech identity theft that allows thieves to steal your credit card information using inexpensive technology to intercept credit card (and sometimes even passport) information without even touching your wallet. Watch the video to the left or read our Electronic Pickpocket post to learn the basics.

And make sure you pay attention to the fact that the person they are interviewing for the news piece in the video MAKES MONEY FROM YOUR FEAR OF ELECTRONIC PICKPOCKETING! The gentleman they interview runs a company that makes shields for your credit cards and passports to stop electronic pickpocketing. I’m not saying that the products don’t work or aren’t somewhat valid; I’m saying that you have to take this gentleman’s perspective into consideration before buying the hype. He benefits from your fear, so do a little more research before you go gettin’ all paranoid.

The amount of hype this old form of theft is receiving (yes, this has been possible for years, despite all of the attention it’s getting now) is a bit overblown. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • The person being interviewed in the video benefits from your fear of electronic pickpocketing.
  • When a thief steals this information from you, they generally get your credit card number, expiration date and quite possibly your name. They DO NOT get your 3-digit security code or address. This is the same amount of information that the average waiter or retail clerk gets simply by looking at your card.
  • Because they don’t get your 3-digit security code or address, it is much more difficult for them to use the credit card number to make purchases on the internet, as most sites require some form of address verification or 3-digit security confirmation.
  • Only a fraction of cards utilize the RFID/Contactless Swipe technology, lowering your chances significantly.
  • As long as you catch your card being used fraudulently (see the protection suggestions below), you will not be held liable for the losses, the business that accepted the illegal card will. Even if your information is used to make a new card, if you are monitoring your identity properly, your out of pocket will be minimal.
  • Most cards only transmit 2-3 inches, which means that someone has to get a laptop-sized bag within two inches of your purse or wallet. This isn’t impossible, but it takes a fair amount of time and skill (notice how the news report doesn’t show them doing it without asking the people first). In most cases, this amount of work is too time intensive for the identity thief – it’s more lucrative to hack into a system that contains hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers (and other information) all in one place.
  • Fraud departments in credit card companies have come a long way. Most credit card companies are able to detect fraud on your card faster that you can. More secure credit card companies will call to confirm suspicious purchases or purchasing patterns.
  • If you want to get technical, which you probably don’t, credit card theft isn’t actually identity theft. They don’t have access to the personal items they need to actually steal your identity.

But it can happen, and it’s worth preventing. Which is simple:

  • First, check to see if you even have credit cards with the ability to beam your information to an RFID receiver (look for the circled symbol in the photo to the right). If not, stop worrying and just monitor any future cards you receive.
  • Second there are sleeves and wallets built to protect your cards and make them unable to scan and be lifted. Several companies, like Checks Unlimited make RFID wallets & products that shield the electromagnetic energy necessary to power and communicate with contactless smart cards, passports, and enhanced drivers licenses.
  • Next, set up account alerts and monitor your statements to cover yourself in the small chance that it happens to you. That way if your credit card is compromised, you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card.
  • If you are worried about having a credit card that can transmit your personal information, call your credit card company and ask them to send you a card that doesn’t transmit or have RFID capabilities (you know it transmits if it has the small broadcast or sonar icon circled to the left). Get rid of the source of the fraud!
  • Never leave your purse or wallet in an easy to scan place. Get rid of all of the excess credit cards that you don’t use and lower the chances that one of them will be compromised.
  • For added protection, especially for your Passport (which carries a much higher volume of very sensitive information), consider purchasing a sleeve or shield that makes RFID scanning less likely.  Checks Unlimited offers a wide variety of these types of RFID blocking sleeves & cases.”

But whatever you do, don’t buy into the hype and paranoia just because a video has gone viral on YouTube.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of two identity theft prevention books, Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010) and America’s top Identity Theft Speaker. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.

Electronic Pickpocket Video – Identity Theft Expert

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There is a new wave of Hi-Tech Identity Theft that the average person has no idea is possible. Identity Thieves are able to steal your credit card information without even touching your wallet.

RFID, or radio-frequency identity technology was introduced to make paying for items faster and easier. What many probably didn’t expect is that the same technology can be used by thieves to get your payment information just as easily. All major credit cards that have this technology have a symbol (pictured to the right). It means that your card can communicate via electromagnetic waves to exchange data (your credit card number) between a terminal and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of identification. With a quick scan of the card, the same way you would scan it to pay for items,  all of your payment information is directed towards a source or identity thief’s computer in this case.

With a laptop and an antenna, it’s possible that a virtual pickpocket can steal credit card information, without ever touching their victim.  All that is needed is a credit card reader that you can purchase online and a laptop computer. With a simple scan the crook can lift your credit card number, expiration date, and in some cases your name. Since 2006 all U.S. passports also have RFID technology so identity thieves are able to scan those just as easily and pick up more personal information in order to rip you off. These passports contain specific contact information as well as date of birth.

The statistics on this type of theft are not available because the detection rate is low and it is so new. There would be no way right now to prove that this method was used over other similar methods that steal your card information. There are a few ways you can protect yourself.

First, set up account alerts and monitor your statements. That way if your credit card is compromised you can detect it immediately and take the necessary steps to contact the bank, report the fraud, and cancel the card. Second there are sleeves and wallets built to protect your cards and make them unable to scan and be lifted. Several companies make products that create an RFID shield by blocking the electromagnetic energy necessary to power and communicate with contactless smart cards, passports, and enhanced drivers licenses.

Before you finish this article, pull out all of your cards to see if they have the sonar symbol above. Even one of these puts you at risk.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010), a professional Financial Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.