The past couple of years have seen a huge spike in the usage of contactless cards, with an estimated 81 million debit and credit cards across the UK alone now carrying the functionality. That’s not to mention the amount of wireless travel cards and work IDs that now carry your personal information.
As the popularity of “tap and go” cards has increased, so too has the danger of Digital Pickpocketing (also known as Electronic Pickpocketing). We’ve prepared this handy guide to get you clued up on the subject, as well as providing a solution for protecting yourself from falling victim:
What is contactless card technology?
Today most new payment and access cards will contain a chip that allows the information on them to be read by simply holding them on or near a scanning device. This works via RFID technology.
What is RFID technology?
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) refers to the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag or chip that is attached to an object (such as the chip attached to your credit card). These tags can be read from up to several feet away and do not require a direct line of sight.
What are the benefits to using contactless cards?
Contactless cards allow you to pay for transactions (currently up to a max of £30 in the UK) by simply presenting your card over a reader for approximately one second, rather than the hassle of inserting your card into a machine, entering your pin and waiting for confirmation.
What are the dangers of using contactless cards?
Tech-savvy criminals have seized upon the new tap and go culture by using handheld payment terminals or mobile phone apps to ‘skim’ the card information of those around them. The criminals can use these devices to charge the maximum £30 from your card direct to their payment device straight away, or store your details for unlimited use online later on. This has become known as Digital Pickpocketing.
When am I at risk of Digital Pickpocketing?
As RFID technology works within several feet and without a clear line of sight. you could be the victim of a digital pickpocket when you are standing in a shopping queue, on public transport, in a lift, or even just walking down the street.
Is it a real danger, or just scaremongering?
Unfortunately it is the former; the subject is a growing concern with ITV recently running a special report on it’s Tonight program. The total amount lost to Digital Pickpocketing in 2014 was over £150,000, with the number of contactless cards in circulation growing all the time. Recently a research team from Which Magazine were able to purchase a £3,000 TV online using the information they had ‘skimmed’ from a payment card.
How can I protect myself?
Digital Pickpockets can be foiled by a simple innovation developed by Solon Security: the Card Defender is a handy, credit card sized sleeve that you can keep your contactless card inside. The sleeve is made of a special RFID blocking material that prevents your details being skimmed, protecting both your money and your identity from tech-savvy thieves.
For more information on the Card Defender, view our Product Focus blog HERE.