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Electronic Pickpocketing

Jan 1, 2010

Thousands of travelers and consumers can fall victim to electronic pickpocketing and never even know it because they carry new credit cards and U.S. passports.

Credit card issuers, along with the U.S. State Department, have begun installing radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in credit cards and passports because the technology holds more data than magnetic stripes and can be read quicker.

But, that convenience, experts warn, can also put people at risk of having their information taken.

"I wouldn't walk around in public with my cards exposed like that," said Walt Augustinowicz, founder of ID Stronghold. "It's too easy to do."

RFID chips are commonly found in cards used to raise gates in parking garages and unlock doors at businesses. All one has to do is simply swipe the card in front of a reader.

Within the last few years, that same technology has been introduced to credit cards and U.S. passports, potentially putting holders at risk of being ripped off.

It doesn't matter if the cards are kept in a wallet or a purse since they can transmit through them when prompted by a RFID reader, which are for sale on eBay.

Augustinowicz said it amounts to electronic pickpocketing.

"[At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport], where you've got lots of crowds and a lot of people moving back and forth, no one is going to think anything of you walking by them with a briefcase with a higher-powered reader in it," he said.

Using free software, he showed what hackers when using a RFID reader on a credit card. The account number and expiration date pop up on the computer screen almost instantaneously after the reader gets within a few inches of the card.

The only credit cards that are vulnerable are those that allow users to tap or pass a reader to pay rather than swiping. Some might also have a symbol on them that indicate they transmit.

U.S. passports are harder to crack because a password is required, but hackers with the know how and correct information can see everything on the passport's front page, Augustinowicz said.

Every U.S. passport issued since 2006 has a RFID chip in it, along with a gold emblem with a circle in the middle at the bottom of the passport's cover.

The RFID concept is now being used so widely, it led Augustinowicz to create ID Stronghold. the company sells foil sleeves and special badge holders that prevents RFID cards from being read unknowingly.

Augustinowicz's products already comes with new U.S. passport cards, along with green cards.

ID Stronghold, Augustinowicz said, has sold seven million protective sleeves and badge holders around the world, mostly to governments. He is now marketing his product to consumers.

No one has ever been caught trying to swipe someone's credit card without their knowledge. But, a thief could be long gone before a victim ever realized it. Independent security experts said it's a real concern.

"Definitely a threat," said Jason Lowe, who works for M&S Technologies, a computer security company in North Dallas that tracks emerging threats.

"It's very much real," he said. "It's a today technology. They're going to be incorporating this more and more, so I think there's a reason for people to worry."

But it's not just travelers and consumers who should worry, Augustinowicz said, but anyone with government, military or even those who have port of entry IDs.

Rajneesh Madhok


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Extremely important information. Some people had a problem believing this could happen. But I know people who were victimized in this way. It seems almost incredible. Believe it.
Jan 1, 2010
Honourable SPN Administrator ji,


Now the point is that to protect the rights of the citizens the Govt should improve vigilance regarding IT frauds. In India like Chief Vigilance Commissioner seek help of whistle blowers regarding working staff and whisle blowers secretly report to CVC about the corrupt practices. Now the question is US Govt would have created laws to protect the cyber crime. Now the question is whether one believe or not but the question is that if one doubt regarding the modus operendi of specific persons and think that he/she may be victimized by the specific person/persons then to whom one should report so that appropriate action could be taken in time.

Though every public sector undertakings including banks also announce similar policy advising staff not be silent spectator of corrupt practices if they come to note. But the laws and the rules must have been framed for the general public as well. As we know that the cyber crime lobby is a powerful lobby which have deep roots so one should report the matter to the agency and it should be investigated like allegation and if the fraud is detected with the report of whisle blower then he should be duly rewarded.

Now, we come to the information provided to the media by the common people regarding spending of Rs 70000 crores of rupees despite the fact that initial budget for commonwealth Games was not even 700 crores, by this action Mr. Kalmadi comes in to the clutches. Like wise Mr. Raja in 2G spectrum. This all happen because there is a talk and discussion on the matter somewhere in India or in world.

Like wise if we discuss about the problem then the solution will also be sort out. Though the persons involved in discussions are not directly related to solve the problem.

As we know the vaccination drive started about measles. Though we know that every child will not become the victim of measles. But the discussion exposed the problem and every child got vaccinated.

We come to the study of Ramayana. Quite a few years back the story seems that it is created story and Brahm Astra is nothing. But when scientists developed Missiles it proved that there is something considerable in the ancient stories.

So, the discussions on the matter should be done though we don’t have solution to it.

Rajneesh Madhok


Aug 17, 2010
World citizen!
Unfortunately identify theft is on the rise and is facilitated through several means. 2 people in my family in 2 separate countries (India and UK) have had money stolen directly from their bank accounts within the past year! This is worth a read:

Identity theft is the world's fastest growing crime due to society's ever increasing reliance on computers and the Internet. Identity theft occurs when identity thieves steal key pieces of your PII (Personal Identifying Information) like your credit card number, Social Security number, driving license number and even your name.
Once your personal identifying information is stolen, it is usually used for fraudulent purposes. This can be devastating to you, your family, and your financial well-being.
ID theft is an insidious and complex crime. The Federal Trade Commission calculates that more than 9 million Americans every year fall prey to this growing phenomenon.
A few ID theft victims discover the situation quickly and take action to repair the damage before the damage overwhelms them. However, others are not so lucky. The unfortunate majority of identity theft victims end up spending hefty amounts of cash and endless hours to restore their names or credit record.
The extent of damage and intensity can vary from fraudulent accounts or rental apartments in your name, to losing a job or even bankruptcy filed in your name.
How does it happen? Where does it start? How do you prevent it or restore your identity once you are a victim?
Identity theft may start with a trusting attitude and a bit of carelessness your part. However, the malicious intent of the identity thief is the real culprit.
Broadly speaking, the methods used by identity thieves to steal your personal identifying information and later misuse it, fall into the following categories.

  • Theft or loss of purses and wallets
  • Bribing employees to divulge information
  • Digging through personal or business trash
  • Tricking institutions such as banks into divulging your PII
  • Computer hacking
  • Rerouting mail and business information
  • "Phishing" scams through email spamming.
  • "Skimming," using special devices to steal your debit/credit card numbers.
Identity thieves use your personal identifying information for various fraudulent purposes. Different types of fraud include the following.

  • Financial - Credit cards, checks, investments, etc.
  • Medical - Medical history, care, bills, prescriptions, etc.
  • Driver's license or Passport
  • Social Security number
  • Criminal - This type of fraud usually happens when an identity thief presents your identifying information to law enforcement officers to avoid prosecution, leaving you with a criminal history.
How do you prevent ID Theft? Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely protect yourself. However, regular monitoring of your accounts, credit, billing cycle, etc. helps.
Identity thieves, like most criminals, are only looking for easy targets. Guard your personal identifying information carefully. Pay attention. Identity theft prevention is much easier than identity theft restoration.


Some more tips, shred any post displaying your address and DOB, avoid displaying DOB anywhere, cover the control panel when typing in your PIN number, don't share bank details with non-account holders and lock away your passport when not being used.



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