4OYS Investigates Electronic Pick Pocketing

Posted at: 05/22/2013 10:35 PM
Updated at: 05/23/2013 6:01 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Electronic pick pocketing is expected to become more of a problem as credit card technology advances.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards contain a chip that broadcasts out a signal containing your credit card number, expiration, and often your name.  Banks and retailers like this technology because it makes paying for merchandise easier.  A simple wave of a credit card over a sensor will pay for everything. 

The problem is the chip doesn’t have any kind of an on/off switch, which means it is constantly broadcasting your information.  Walt Augustinowicz is the Founder/CEO of Florida-based Company Identity Stronghold.  At KOB 4 On Your Side’s request, Augustinowicz traveled to Albuquerque to demonstrate how easy it is to take advantage of RFID credit cards. 

At the Albuquerque International Sunport and the Old Town Plaza, we were quickly able to electronically pick pocket willing-participants.  By simply waving a device Augustinowicz bought for a few hundred dollars online around pockets, wallets, and purses, he was able to gather the sensitive information RFID cards broadcasted.  When we showed the willing participants, none of them even knew there card was implanted with the chip. 

Augustinowicz told 4 On Your Side that banks know it’s relatively easy to steal information from RFID cards, but they still tell customers the cards are safe.

“They are completely wrong and they know that,” Augustinowicz said.  “They shouldn't be telling people that.  I hear that a lot.  They say there are protections in place to stop people from using the cards.  The may be able to scam some data, but they don't get enough to do anything.  That's completely false."

Protecting your card from an unwanted sensor is remarkably easy.  Any sort of metal blocks the credit card radio transmission.  Augustinowicz’s company sells card sleeves, metal-laced wallets and card holders, but wrapping your RFID credit cards in aluminum foil would work just as well.