Investigator: Apps can raise risk for electronic pickpocketing

6:14 AM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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NORTHEAST OHIO -- Security expert Walt Augustinowicz has an important warning for anyone who uses a smart phone.  He says downloading an app could put you at risk for electronic pickpocketing.

Augustinowicz,  the founder of Identity Stronghold, says the threat involves newer credit cards that have Radio Frequency Identification or RFID.

The new cards transmit a signal that can be intercepted by thieves with a portable credit card reader which is available to anyone to buy. 

Augustinowicz showed how easy it is to steal someone's credit card information without ever touching the individual or his or her wallet.

He now warns that a new feature called Near Field Communication, or NFC, can actually turn your phone against you.

The idea of NFC is to make your smart phone a virtual wallet.  Simply wave it over a credit card reader at any store for instant payment.

But Augustinowicz demonstrated  that the new technology can also put you at risk. He demonstrated by infecting a common tic-tac-toe game he downloaded on his phone.

"It has a little piece of code, little piece of software, that says there's a credit card, get the information and send it to xyz,," he said.

Augustinowicz says your own phone could be scanning your credit cards and emailing the information to anywhere in the world.

"They can be in Iowa in a cornfield, put their phone in their pocket next to their credit card and get ripped off that ways," he said.

Credit card companies said fraud based on a scanning of RFID or contactless cards is not happening.

Augustinowicz believes millions of NFC phones will be in use soon and says the threat is real.

Credit card companies are quick to mention that their customers are not responsible for any unauthorized or fraudulent charges.

Augustinowicz says consumers can protect themselves by using protective credit card sleeves and wallets that block the transmission of signals. He also said consumers should be sure they are downloading apps from a reliable source.


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