Consumerwatch: Credit card security - is your card at risk?
Published Monday, November 12, 2012 2:28PM CST
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 2:32PM CST
It’s a way to pay for purchases without entering a PIN number or signing a receipt.
They’re credit cards with embedded with a chip that allows transactions to be completed just by tapping on a terminal.
It’s convenient for consumers, but according to some security experts, it can be a target for electronic pickpockets as well.
It’s called a RFID or Radio Wave Frequency ID chip and works with radio frequencies.
Visa cardholder Ken Miller says his card doesn’t have one now, but once it expires, his new one will.
He’s concerned about the technology considering his wife and daughter were both victims of identity theft.
“It’s not secure, and I am not happy that they’re giving me something I don’t want,” says Miller.
Michael Legary, chief strategy officer with Seccuris Inc., says the radio frequencies make it easier for hackers to access your information remotely.
“With an hour or two of effort someone can download an application that can read full credit card information and use it whenever they want,” he says
Legary put his theory to test and used software downloaded to his smartphone and was able to read information such as the name, expiry date and credit card number from two people just by holding the phone near their wallets.
Sherisse Bryson says she didn’t even know her credit card had the chip.
“I didn’t expect it to be not secure like that,” Bryson says. “It’s scary.”
Visa, MasterCard and American Express all offer versions of the technology and say the chip is designed so a hacker could only use the information for a single transaction, which is capped at low dollar amounts.
The companies also say cardholders are protected under a zero-liability policy, which reimburses them for any unauthorized purchases. Visa Canada also says it hasn’t received any complaints of fraud due to the chips.
Still, Legary says there are ways around that such as sending the stolen information to multiple cellphones.
“Even though there are security measures in place, attackers have figured out ways to bypass them,” says Legary.
But there are ways to protect the cards. Retailers such as U.N. Luggage in Winnipeg sell wallets and sleeves lined with foil or steel making the chips unreadable.
Ken Miller says banks should offer consumers the choice about whether they want the chip in their cards or not.
“I don’t want to go through losing a card or someone taking my information,” says Miller. “It’s not secure.”