Credit card companies try to make transactions convenient for consumers, so radio frequency identification, or RFID, has been embedded in millions of cards. You wave your card near a scanner, and an electronic system picks up the information from a microchip in the card. Thieves, however, can scan your card data with inexpensive card readers or apps on smartphones by standing a few inches away from you, even if the card is in your purse or wallet.
Check your credit card to see whether it contains the chip. Cards that contain the technology include MasterCard’s PayPass, American Express’ Express Pay, Visa’s PayWave and Discover’s Zip. Other cards may also contain the chip without indicating it.
Ask your card issuer through customer service if your credit card contains the microchip. You can also inquire about getting a traditional card without the chip if available. It may cost you an additional fee. In the meantime, there are simpler ways to protect your financial information from electronic pickpockets.
Wrap your card in aluminum foil, which prevents a scanner from reading the information. Many consumers concerned about electronic card theft have used this technique.
Use an inexpensive credit card sleeve made with Tyvek, a high-density polyethylene fiber material. The sleeves cost about 50 cents as a better alternative to pulling your card out of aluminum foil whenever you make a purchase.
Buy specially made wallets that block RFID transmissions. Although Consumer Reports found during a 2011 study that the wallets didn’t work as well as tinfoil, technology continues to improve by different companies offering the protection.
Stack your cards together in a wallet to interfere with a scanner’s ability to read information. The scanners become confused if you have more than one card with a microchip closely packed.
Keep track of your credit card statements and transactions in print or online. Notify your credit card issuer if you see a questionable purchase or purchases you didn’t make.
- You can avoid scanners that simply use waving the card and use only magnetic strip readers that require sliding the card. Use card readers inside stores and don’t use single-standing terminals or readers in isolated areas. Skimmers target isolated terminals with skimming equipment to steal your information.
- Don't try to remove the chip from the card on your own by cutting or smashing the chip with a hammer, which gives your card the appearance of having been tampered with and might be rejected at stores. One suggestion includes placing the card in the microwave for a few seconds -- but a second or two too long could burn the card up.
- Credit card companies try to improve microchip technology through encryption for security, but thieves try to think of new ways to develop technology that steals your information. Remain on guard with protective measures for your cards.
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