Investigator: Electronic pickpocketing a growing problem

11:51 PM, Aug 7, 2012   |    comments
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NORTHEAST OHIO -- In the blink of an eye, a thief can steal your credit card without ever touching you or your wallet.  It's called electronic pickpocketing.

"It will become the number one way thieves will steal your credit or debit card information," says Walt Augustinowicz, the founder of Identity Stronghold.

Armed with a portable credit card reader and battery concealed in a small case, Augustinowicz walked the streets of Cleveland, demonstrating how easy it is easy to steal your credit card information.

"Wow, I had no idea it was that easy," said one Clevelander who asked that her name not be used. 

The electronic pickpocketing is made possible with the use of newer credit cards with Radio Frequency Identifcation or RFID.  The high-tech, contactless cards,  send a signal that allows you to simply wave it near a credit card reader at checkout for quick and easy payment.

Augustinowicz worked the lunch crowds on E. 4th Street and Walnut Avenue in downtown Cleveland and picked off a number of credit card numbers from purses and wallets.

Naturally, the cardholder was told what was happening.  Reaction ranged from concern to shock.

Credit card companies downplay the potential for fraud.

"There's no evidence fraud is taking place. This is not a real problem," said Randy Vanderhoof, the president of Smart Card Alliance.

Vanderhoof said the technology doesn't allow the three-digit security code to be stolen. But Augustinowicz proved you often don't need it to buy merchandise on-line.

He placed an order for a golf shirt with Amazon-dot-com, using a bogus name. The shirt arrived about a week later.

"Some sites will ask you for a 3-digit code, others won't," said Augustinowicz.

The security expert says you can protect yourself by placing your credit cards in protective sleeves and wallets which block credit card numbers from being transmitted.   


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