What is RFID Identity Theft?
RFID identity theft is a type of identity theft in which the identity thieves steal the personal information of individuals wirelessly.The information is stolen from RF-enabled cards using wireless mechanics which use radio frequencies.
Therefore, this type of identity theft is also known as wireless identity theft or contactless identity theft. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. RFID identity theft is a new technique of obtaining one’s personal information though it is becoming very common day by day which is a serious concern.
What are RF-enabled cards?
With the advancements in the technology, new type of cards called RF-enabled cards are becoming more and more popular. These cards are enabled with radio frequency and are used for Radio Frequency Identification. These RF-enabled cards consist of a radio frequency identification chip. This chip responds to certain radio frequencies which can be read by RFID readers.
Various debit and credit cards are created with Radio Frequency Identification. This technology is not just limited to credit/debit cards, but personal identification documents such as driver’s license, passport, etc. are also created using this technology.
Types of RFID readers
RFID readers vary in terms of shape, size, and levels of strength. Typically, there are two types of RFID readers:
Low powered RFID readers
These are the ones found at your local fast food chain, shopping marts, etc. which need to be used in close proximity as they have low range.
High powered RFID readers
These readers have a high range. They can be hacked and then connected to a laptop or some other device. This type of setup could read your RFID card from a distance without you knowing about it.
How does RFID Identity Theft work?
RFID identity theft involves the usage of special radio frequency-enabled chips. These chips are embedded in different types of identification documents and debit/ credit cards. These chips store the personal data of the user including name, phone number, address, SSN, and other important information. This information is read by RFID scanners at places like airports, shopping stores, checkouts, etc.
The benefit of RFID card is that it saves your time very much. For example, during standard checkouts, first, you swipe your card and then receive a receipt. In RFID cards, you just have to swipe your card and you can go. Therefore, it eliminates long queues and waiting time.
Now, the disadvantage of RFID cards is that though it saves your time in checking out, at the same time it compromises your identity. An RFID card reader can be used illegally. It can read your card from a distance even if the card reader and the card are kept inside bags. So an intruder can read your card by hiding the card reader inside a bag and steal your information without you knowing about it. There is nothing you can do to stop it. In fact, there are several smartphone apps available which also let attackers steal private information from these RFID cards.
In 2012, there was a Shmoocon hacker conference in which Kristin Paget of Recursion Ventures performed a demonstration on stage. In this demonstration, she explained how easy it is to steal information by stealing data from an RFID card and then also used it to make a purchase.
How to Prevent RFID Identity Theft?
Are You Scared Your Identity Might Get Stolen? You can take the following steps to protect your identity and prevent RFID identity theft:
First of all, you can request for credit cards which do not have RFID chips embedded in them.
Do not carry unnecessary credit cards in your wallet.
Protective sleeves designed to carry credit cards can be used to protect credit card information. These sleeves are made of high-density polyethylene fibers called Tyvek which is inexpensive.
An RFID passport holder/ pouch consisting of a special RFID-blocking layer within the fabric could be used to prevent illegal scanning of your data.
Wallets having RFID blockers are also available in the market.
Although, it is not a fully secure measure according to some reports, but you can give it a try.
A more handy option called money belts having RFID blocking properties could also be of great use. These belts are designed with sufficient space to hold cash, credit/ debit cards, identity cards, and other important things.
An RFID travel organizer could be an attractive alternative for storing all your items such as identification documents, credit cards, passport, etc. This way not only your cards can be protected from illegal scans, but they could also be kept in an organized manner.
Identity theft is a growing problem despite the fact that several measures are taken for reducing the risk of identity theft. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes in the USA. Identity theft cannot be eliminated completely. So, the best protection measure is to secure your personal information as much as possible.