I wrote the other day a post on Travel Cards and mentioned also the existence of ‘Pay Pass’ and ‘Tab & Go’ cards, or more correctly additions to functions of the conventional Cards.
The usefulness of Travel Cards is not disputed, but the Pay Pass type addition to your card makes it necessary to be fully au fait with the security risks of having a card with a Radio Frequency Identification [RFID] chip as part of the card.
You may already have one of these cards if your MasterCard says “pay pass” on it, or your Visa has the “pay Wave” icon, your American Express is labelled “expresspay”, and as mentioned in the previous article an AirNZ card which will show the “pay pass” logo on its card, so if you are going overseas you only have to swipe a little stubby gadget to e.g. pay for your petrol or shopping. While this new technology has the potential to make paying for things easier and shorten pay queues at stores, it creates an easy way for savvy thieves to steal your credit card information.
The readers for these cards may be seen in our stores, restaurant or petrol stations before too long so it pays to be aware of a potential danger and recently an investigative news channel aired a story on how this kind of identity theft works and how you can protect yourself [a must see]. In the story, they show how a $3 smart card reader purchased online can steal people’s credit card information if the thief can get close enough to your purse or wallet.
In the story they claim to have stalked 21 people in a mall and stole 9 people’s credit card information. Fortunately, the RFID chips on these new credit card smart cards give off such a weak signal that someone has to almost brush a concealed smart card reader up against your pocket or your purse to read your card.
However, also new enhanced driver’s licenses and passports in various countries give off a much stronger signal that can be picked up from 30 to 50 feet away. I do not know if this applies to our NZ passports but thankfully governments are aware of this problem and have started to issue their new enhanced driver’s licenses and passports with protective sleeves that prevent the cards from being read until they are taken out of the sleeve.
Now say you want to use of these new cards on your next overseas trip, how do you protect your card from being read by villains? There are several ways:
- Buy RFID blocking sleeves or a RFID blocking wallet for your cards
- Only take your pay pass cards with you when you need them
- Use cash or a debit card instead of an RFID credit card
You can find a sleeve to protect your card by searching online for a “RFID blocking sleeve”. You can also make one yourself by wrapping your card in aluminium foil (if you don’t mind that in your wallet), or between a two thin brass liners.
So what is the worst that can happen, well, the chance of your pay pass card details being stolen is statistically very slim, truth to tell the greatest threat to your credit and your finances is you. If you don’t use your credit cards wisely, you have the potential to cause yourself far more grief than an identity thief could.
There are of course other aspect of security with cards and banking, e.g. internet banking and you can learn all about that in Kapiti SeniorNet’s course on ‘What can I do on my PC’. If you are interested check out the course schedules above.
Oh, and happy and safe Holidays ahead.