Foil Electronic Pickpockets With Aluminium Foil Or Multiple Credit Cards

A new kind of potential thievery is on the rise: criminals who can steal your credit card data by walking by you with electronic scanners, maybe even with their mobile phones. It's easy, however, to protect yourself.

The new threat exists because of the radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) or Near Field Communication (NFC) chips that are starting to be embedded in credit and debit cards. A modern thief can use this "swipe to pay" technology to capture your info by scanning your wallet or purse with an electronic scanner.

It's not as easy for electronic pickpockets to get your wallet, however, as simply bumping into you, the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch explains. The thief would have to hold the scanner next to your wallet or purse, unmoved for about 30 seconds, so you'd probably notice it — unless you were distracted or left your belongings unattended for such a time.

This video shows how thieves can get credit card info from a Barclays contactless credit card in the UK with an NFC-enabled mobile phone:

The good news is foiling electronic scanners is simple. You have two easy solutions. According to MarketWatch:

If you have two cards with RFID chips in your wallet, the scanner can't read them because they confuse the information and cancel each other out. [...]

If you're still worried about getting ripped off by someone invading your space with a notepad-like scanner, here's a tried-and-true precautionary move: Put a piece of aluminium foil in your wallet.

Or you could go whole hog and make your own RFID-shielded wallet.

How to foil electronic pickpockets [MarketWatch]


    I always keep my credit card in the tin foil hat I wear to stop the government reading my thoughts.

      Now you just have to work out how to stop them reading all your Lifehacker comments :P

    Here's an even better idea, instead of putting your customers accounts at risk, don't supply RFID's until the bloody things are actually hack proof! Fixed, simple!!

    I don't think they'd have to sit there for 30 seconds. My workmate was telling me recently that he put such a card in his wallet, put the wallet in his pocket, hugged his girlfriend, and then her Nexus S read the card. He's also been doing some work with RFID readers, and they can display the information on the card on an LCD display in the space of a second after holding the card over the scanner.

    I also don't think having multiple RFID cards would help. I have two RFID cards that get me into two separate offices for work, and I keep them both in the same plastic pouch as my ID card. Swiping the pouch over either scanner has always gotten me into that office.

      I'm a little dubious about the 30 seconds too. When I use Paypass, it registers the card in about 2 seconds, definitely no more than 5.

    I think that ultimately depends on wether your work access cards contain technology where they only broadcast their information when queried by the "home scanner". If the scanner doesn't authenticate itself as the correct system to the card then the card does nothing, that is your typical HID and Indala type card. There are many standards, only some have been broken. I know that my Translink Go card would never work when next to my UQ Student ID card, always had to separate the cards, they were probably operating on the same frequency (there are a few different ones used).

      I agree, multiple RFID cards won't necessarily stop your info from being stolen

    destroy the chip. bash with a hammer, punch a hole in it,...
    transactions will fall back to the stripe.

    I got an RFID Shielded wallet for my birthday :)

    when pay pass and this technology was first announced, this was the exact thing i was worried about, while making it easier for people to shop, it also makes it easier for information to be stolen. i also read up that phones will have the same technology as well meaning you can swipe your card on your phone to make purchases?

    The RFID risk is no more than typing your credit card number into an online web store or having the waitress or shop assistant copy the number after you pass the card non-chalantly and they take it away for processing. With out further details such as PIN numbers or keytags, the data stored on the card is worthless and of no more danger than the printed and embossed numbers. It just pays to be cautious as in any transaction but not to get too alarmed or carried away.

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