Credit Cards

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

RFID and Smart Credit Cards: Making It Easy for Electronic Pickpockets

RFIDI have a love/hate relationship with RFID technology.

Every time I ease through the E-ZPass lane at a toll both, and slip passed non-E-ZPass users who have to wait in line to pay their toll in cash, I'm thankful.

Love E-ZPass. But I'm not a fan of RFID chips in my credit cards.

Smart credit cards use RFID technology. They allow cardholders to checkout faster than ever, with a simple wave of the card in front of a card reader. My main debit card offers super-fast "Blink" checkout, but I never use it (at least, I don't think I have!) When I checkout at e.g. +Walmart, I'm perfectly happy to swipe my card then sign the electronic signature pad. It's fast enough for me, and keeps me from worry too much about becoming a target of an electronic pickpocket.

How easy for it for someone to read the payment cards in your wallet? Much easier than you probably realize. Check out this YouTube clip:

So, what to do?

One solution: call your credit-card bank and ask them to replace any smart cards they've issued you with good, old fashioned dumb cards (sans RFID chips.) Unfortunately, many credit-card banks are so committed to smart cards that your request for a de-evolved card will probably be met with resistance.

In my opinion, it's worth it to try. My thesis: If enough people make the request, banks will get the message and will probably move to improve current smart card technologies, sooner rather than later.

I could use a metal wallet, but I don't like the idea of using something that bulky. I guess I could buy a bunch of thin, protective sleeves for each card, but I'm not ready to do that yet.

Maybe I should be.

Back in 2008, my debit card info was stolen and used (or sold) by a waitress at a popular seafood restaurant. She used one of those pager-sized card readers to swipe my card. I'm pretty sure she sold the info, because the fraudulent charge was for $150-worth of flowers from a retailer in Eastern Europe. Hard to prevent this type of theft, because restaurant staff always take your card away from you and out of sight when you pay. Needless to say, I've been using cash to pay for meals more often than I used to.

And because credit card info is being stolen from websites more often these days, I've gotten into the habit of using PayPal to pay for goods online. Another decent alternative is to use Google Checkout.

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