Is your credit card leaving you vulnerable?

February 21, 2011 8:16:05 PM PST
We have a consumer warning about your credit card. It could contain a simple chip that transmits your credit card information.

Typically, you'd have to wave your credit card past a reader to activate the chip, but the readers can be in the hands of the wrong people, leaving your financial information vulnerable.

You use them to unlock doors, open gates and even pay for things with just the wave of a hand. The Radio Frequency ID Chip is the technology that turns your card into a key.

Most people may not know it, but their credit cards may also have the chip.

Credit cards with a symbol of a chip on them, or if you have a passport issued since 2006, it has a chip.

While the RFID can make life simple, some say the chips are playing a big role in electronic pick-pocketing.

"One particular credit card which ended up the very next weekend having a thousand-plus dollars in fraudulent charges which I absolutely did not make," RFID victim Emily Williams said.

Williams is not certain the RFID chip in her credit card gave away her information, but the more she found out about RFID chips and the readers that can be bought online, the more she suspected technology.

"Learned that it would be really easy in a crowded place, my card could still be in my wallet, in my purse and the number could be stolen," Williams said.

RFID readers can be bought online for about $100, if a reader passes close enough to your RFID-enabled credit card everything on the card could get transmitted, leaving you open to credit card fraud.

Law enforcement officials here in Harris County say they have no confirmed cases of someone's credit card information being compromised because of an RIFD chip, but they add if it has happened, they have no way of knowing about it.

"Because of the technology, there would have to be a couple of things investigatively that will have to go right for us in order to know if the technology had been used," Harris County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jeff Stauber said.

That means actually catching someone using an RFID reader.

Stauber says his financial crimes unit does expects this kind of crime to become more prevalent as crooks figure out ways to use the readers.

"Do I think it will eventually happen? Absolutely, I think we will have to deal with it here in Harris County," Stauber said.

There are things you can do to protect yourself, companies are selling RFID blocking sleeves for just a few dollars.

Williams does not leave home without them.

There is another low tech solution. Aluminum foil can block the RFID signal, but you'll have to line your wallet with it.