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Credit Card and RFID Protection

This is a rather topical subject especially for me at the moment. It has made things easier for us when shopping but it has also made things easier for people to exploit.

So what exactly is RFID and how do you protect yourself?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification. Put simply it is a wireless technology that allows you to tag items using a small chip with unique information so that a remote scanner can identify it. Most credit cards have this technology which allows you to use PayWave (Visa) or PayPass (MasterCard).


While in essence this a convenient way to shop without the need for PIN’s or signing but it does present some problems. I think we have all been in the situation when it has accidentally scanned the wrong card. When PayWave was first introduced on my credit card (which also had my debit account linked on it) I’d go through the drive through of one of the major burger franchises and the young person automatically would wave the card without asking causing the payment to go on credit instead of EFTPOS.

However things have got more scary than that.

In the news recently there has been talk of peoples Credit Card information being Hijacked even when kept in their wallet or purses by people walking through shopping centres using portable scanners!

At first I thought this was fear mongering on behalf of the companies selling new RFID protective cases, wallets & purses. However I have had to change my mind.

Four weeks ago I got an SMS from my bank saying one of my Credit Cards had reached it’s limit. Curious I checked and saw a number of transactions to strange places I had never heard off before. I quickly called the bank and put a hold on the card and reported the fraudulent transactions. Fortunately it was on my small credit card I use for online purchases and not more than a couple of hundred dollars were used. The bank advised it might be a trojan on a PC or malware. Well I am pretty particular about PC safety (refer to my previous post on Anti Virus options). I did however go through all my systems, did a deep scan and even used a third online scanning tool to make sure my AV solution did not miss anything. I went through and changed all my online passwords for banking and PayPal and checked anything I might have used my CC online for. Not finding anything out of the ordinary I even went to the length of wiping my hard drive and rebuilding my PC from scratch just to be sure.

Two weeks latter I get another SMS at 2am from my bank advising my other credit card also appeared to be compromised. This one had considerable more credit to it and nearly $2,000 of transactions had been done in a 24 hour period before the bank put a stop to it! The hacking started about the same time as the previous card but it took two weeks longer to crack it or so it would seem.

I consulted with my colleagues, some whom had previous experience working in banks. They suggested the cards probably got scanned while shopping as it is a very real threat.

So how do you protect your credit card?

The first thing I did was get an RFID protective case for my Credit Cards. You can also get wallets and purses that have the RFID protective tag.

Secondly restrict the use of your credit card online. Where possible use alternate payment methods like Direct Debit or PayPal. If you have to use a credit card online then get one with the smallest amount of credit on it as possible. This will limit your risk profile should it get hacked.

Make sure your banking passwords are not given out to anyone and that they are complex and not easy to crack (seriously birthdays and car rego’s are not a good idea).

Most importantly always, always make sure you are running the latest Anti Virus software on your PC (and yes even Mac’s). Again refer to my post on Anti Virus if you need help deciding.

It costs nothing to ask someone for help if your not sure. If you have a question or concern drop me a line or leave a comment. I will be happy to answer your questions.

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