Consumer Advocate Denise Richardson Talks About Reducing Your Risk:
"Credit cards, drivers’ licenses, corporate ids, university ids, speed passes and passports are starting to contain RFID tags. Criminals know that electronic devices referred to as RF readers sold for little more than $100. on the web, can scan, read and "skim" the stored information AND track it as well. Will Radio-Frequency Identification Technology Affect You? In all likelihood –yes!
Recently, my local ABC station aired a disturbing, eye-opening report. The investigative reporter purchased a remote frequency reader, found easily and readily available on the web and placed it in her purse as she initiated her quest to find out just how easy it would be to steal her co-workers personal information armed with this small electronic device.
Prior to her mission, they first armed and activated her device with an audible alarm so viewers, and her intended targets, could hear a successful theft as it happened –in real time. Her targeted victims would hear an audible signal each time the device successfully stole their information –but they would not immediately know what the annoying beeping noise was or why it was emitting from the reporter’s purse…at least not until it was too late.
Carrying her purse, the reporter nonchalantly walked by an unsuspecting employee’s desk, and suddenly, a beeping noise emanated from the reporter’s bag. She then set her purse on another co-worker’s desk –again, more beeping. She proceeded to walk casually down the office hallway past another co-worker, and yet again, more beeping. Each audible beep meant she successfully hacked the unsuspecting target’s private information -information her targets believed was stowed safely away.
Keep in mind, criminals won’t activate their devices with an audible alarm designed to warn us they’re about to attack our purses or wallets, as this investigative reporter’s device was equipped to do. She also warned viewers that oftentimes criminals will work in teams. While one crook is skimming your information, the other is busy snapping a picture of you on his/her cell phone. For all intents and purposes -they’ve just stolen you!
It’s hard to imagine just how much sensitive information can be "skimmed" at airports, shopping malls, grocery stores, sporting events, universities, etc. without anyone being the wiser. And how much damage (or how many doors) will that stolen data open everyone up to?
Could confidential information stored on personnel badges or key cards -if stolen, provide a thief entrance or access to pass protected computers, corporate or government facilities, college campuses, classified information?
Yes -if not properly secured and protected.
Since retaining our identity has become a daily struggle simply trying to avoid identity theft, data breaches, hackers, scams, predators and fraud…this latest technology isn’t something we can afford to ignore. The days of simply worrying about keeping our wallets in our “physical” possession are long gone. Our having "physical" possession of our wallets and credit cards does not immunize us from fraud.
With radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags being embedded in everything from quick-pay credit cards to the new U.S. passports, "skimming" is an effective tactic for criminals to perpetrate identity theft and other crimes of fraud. Innovative criminals have installed RF readers on ATM’s, embedded them in carpet, hidden them on store shelves and often hand held by criminals -disguised as your friendly waiter or cashier, waiting to swipe more than your credit card. When you’ve been “skimmed” and "scammed" -odds are you won’t know about…it until months later and the damage has already been done.
What can you do to minimize your risk or thwart these attacks?
Aside from using tin foil or duct tape to hide your identifying information, here’s a few websites that offer products, services or additional educational material.
· DIFRWEAR.com <http://www.difrwear.com> sells RFID Blocking Wallets. …“RFID Blocking Wallets ensure that cards with RFID tags within the wallet can NOT be read while the wallet is closed. This gives you the ability to control when, how and by whom your cards are accessed.”
· It’s much better to be proactive than it is to be reactive. Spending a little money now, just may save you a lot of money, time and headaches later; See FTC.gov.idtheft <http://ftc.gov/idtheft>
· For more information about radio-frequency technology and to read RFID Position Statement of Consumer Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations visit privacyrights.org <http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/RFIDposition.htm>
· Order your free annual credit reports go to annualcreditreport.com <http://www.annualcreditreport.com> or dial the toll free number at 877-322-8228.
· You are entitled to place fraud alerts on your credit reports by contacting the credit bureaus. Be aware that fraud alerts only last 90 days –you will need to reactivate them on a regular basis. If you aren’t willing to spend your time taking all the necessary steps and proactive precautions necessary to minimize your chances of fraud –or the take on the tasks of cleaning up your credit once an identity theft or fraud enters your life, there are companies that will do so for you. The company that I personally subscribe to is LifeLock.com <http://www.lifelock.com> …the reason? I no longer want to take on the task of both preventing identity theft nor do I want to spend hundreds of hours it takes to “fix” the mess should my identity be stolen or compromised yet again. It’s a service I freely choose to pay for –just as I let jiffy lube change my oil, Taco Bell make my tacos and Danny –clean my pool –it’s a matter of personal choice and that’s why I love America! "
Denise Richardson is a board member of American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on consumer credit and debt issues. She is a freelance writer and Author of the recently released book Give Me Back My Credit! See Give Me Back My Credit.com <http://www.givemebackmycredit.com>