API Security Tips

Credit Card Skimming Fraud
Updated: Feb 7, 2012

RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, is the technology that lets you simply wave your credit card, passport or license in front of a nearby scanner instead of having to slide the magnectic stripe through it. It's a fairly simple concept. The electronic scanner sends a signal which is received by an antenna embedded into the card, which is connected to the card's RFID chip, thus activating it.

RFID and Card Calling and Sinking

The RFID chip in a credit card emits the account number, expiration data and other information.

Just like a submarine uses sonar to seek out a ship it's trying to sink, the criminals send a radio signal or "ping" from a standard checkout contactless card reader purchased online for under $100. The victim's credit cards' antennae automatically answer the call by providing their card information. The criminal then uses this card information to make purchases, thereby "sinking the card."

About 100 million credit cards now have this technology embedded into them. However, over the next 2-3 years, it is expected that credit card issuers will replace every single magnetic stripe credit and debit card with a new contactless smartcard, and why shouldn't they? The new cards seem to make it all easier. So much easier that some folks are reading your credit cards before you even take them out of your wallet.

Those folks are called identity thieves, and the unfortunate truth is that RFID technology has made identity theft quite literally a stroll in the park. Where credit card "Skimming" used to require the thief to get his hands on your card, acquiring your personal data is now as easy as passing you on the street.

RFID readers

Readers are employed by convenience stores, pharmacies, restaurants, fast food markets, and many other places of business. Credit card companies say it keeps your identity safer, because your card is never in the hands of a stranger. Readers include safety features to keep your data from being intercepted once it has been read from your card.
However, these same readers can be freely purchased and attached to a laptop with very little technical knowledge required. They've even created cell phones with built in card readers that can steal your information. How many times have you walked by someone carrying a briefcase? Would you even be suspicious? By simply walking past you, this person acquires your credit card number, expiration date and more to do with what he pleases.

What can you do?

RFID chips are becoming more and more common. How can you keep your identity safe? One way is to be suspicious of every passing pedestrian.

A simple and very inexpensive option is to simply wrap your credit cards in household tin foil. Yes, it really works! You can make a sleeve for your credit cards with tin foil and use clear packing tape for reinforcement. It's all you need to be safe.