Moral Low Ground


How to Safeguard Your Personal Information Against Digital Pickpockets

Near field communication. NFC banking payment technology

You take a lot of steps to physically safeguard your credit cards: keeping them secure in a wallet or closed purse, making sure you put them back in place after you’ve paid for something, and being aware of your surroundings so you don’t fall victim to a pickpocket. Even when people are being careful, 37 percent of people surveyed in Mexico and the United States have experienced credit card fraud, according to a report from Aite Group and ACI Worldwide. Thieves now have a new way to get your credit card information without even going anywhere near your pocket. They’re using their smartphones.

Contactless Cards

There’s a large drive towards speed, efficiency, and convenience in society, which leads to the development of technology to facilitate these features in every aspect of life. One development is contactless credit cards. You don’t need to run the cards through the point of sale system for payment. Instead, you wave it near the machine, and it reads your card information through RFID, which uses a radio frequency to send this information. This technology on its own is not a major security issue, but with the development of near field communication-enabled phones, it becomes a major hole open to thieves.

Near Field Communications Conundrum

Near field communication technology allows devices to interface with each other in close physical proximity. NFC technology is found in many applications, such as access control, transport, loyalty cards, and consumer electronics. It works with a majority of contactless cards, opening up the field for thieves to take advantage of.

NFC and App Disaster

NFC technology is popular enough the latest smartphones have the antennae included within their designs, such as the Galaxy S3. News 9 discovered it was able to read credit card information using a free app and an NFC-enabled phone without a great deal of difficulty, opening up the floodgates to privacy and identity theft concerns. While you can take proactive steps to prevent identity theft from causing major issues in your life with a service such as LifeLock ID theft protection, it’s better to not have to deal with it to begin with.

Another way thieves manage to digitally steal credit card information is simple: they take a picture of it with their phones. While this doesn’t work for e-commerce sites that require a CVV2 code, they still have plenty of opportunity to put these stolen card numbers to use. Talk with your credit card issuer to see if you can get a non-RFID-enabled credit card, or use a metal wallet that has the potential to interfere with near field communication signals.

There’s no way to completely prevent this kind of theft outside of having a credit card that does not do contactless payment, but staying on top of your credit report and paying for a credit monitoring service does a good job at helping you to stop any major issues from occurring, before they have a massive impact on your life.

Jason McMahon is an IT professional for a large marketing company. He blogs about BYOD policy, cloud technology and the move to mobile.

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