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  1. #1

    Are RFID Credit Cards Safe?

    Consumers haven’t quite warmed up to RFID credit cards. Think of yourself: Do you even know what an RFID card is? If you don’t, that’s proof that this technology hasn’t quite caught on with the credit-card-using public yet.

    RFID credit cards contain a tiny electronic chip. This chip allows consumers to make what the industry calls contactless payments. Basically, if you have an RFID card, you merely have to hold it four inches or less away from a retailer’s RFID terminal. The card will then transmit through radio communications your card’s information – including its account number – to close a transaction.

    It’s supposed to make life easier for consumers. But there are a few hitches here. First, many consumers find these contactless payments a bit unsettling. They don’t like the idea of their important credit card information being transmitted through radio waves.

    Then there’s the even bigger problem: People worry that scam artists armed with fairly cheap technology will be able to steal their credit card information, all without even having to get within 10 feet of them.

    Security Woes

    Chase already offers its Blink RFID card, while American Express offers its own version, ExpressPay. Both companies say that the RFID chips built into their cards come with strong encryption technology, scrambling the information that thieves might nab so that it is useless to them. The cards also transmit one-time-use-only codes for each transaction, and these codes do not match the account numbers printed on consumers’ cards.

    But that hasn’t eased the security concerns of many.

    A story in Popular Mechanics magazine raised some fears. According to that story, a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was able to build scanners capable of snagging both cardholders’ names and card numbers from a wide variety of early RFID credit cards.

    The researchers didn’t stop there. They also discovered a way to send this information back to a card reader, forcing that reader to accept a purchase.

    To which the owners of RFID cards could only respond, “Yikes!”



    Overblown fears?

    Some of these fears, though, might be overblown. Many worry that criminals will be able to purchase RFID readers, that can cost them under $200, and wander through the crowds at supermarkets, department stores and other retailers, skimming the credit card information from any consumers unlucky enough to have RFID-enabled cards in their wallets or purses.

    Problem is, this might not be practical. With the encryption technology that companies are putting into their cards, hackers will have a difficult time unscrambling and using that information. This is especially so for those card companies that rely on unique one-time-only codes to close transactions. These codes will be useless to scsammers.

    Then there’s the simple fact that the traditional credit card, which operates thanks to the magnetic strip on its back, is far from secure, either. Think how many times you happily hand your credit card to a waiter at that high-end restaurant. Think of how easy it’d be for the cashier at the grocery store to snag your credit card information and then use it to complete online purchases.

    The reason we don’t worry more about these crimes is a simple one: Most people wouldn’t think to steal your credit card information.

    In many ways, then, RFID cards are safer than are traditional cards. Cashiers, for instance, don’t handle your cards during an RFID-enabled transaction. They won’t get the opportunity to take your credit card information.

    At the same time, card issuers are relying on more advanced encryption technologies than ever to foil those high-tech scammers that are out there.

    If you’re interested in an RFID credit card, then, apply for one. Don’t let security concerns stop you from investing in what still might be the next generation of credit card technology.

  2. Are RFID Credit Cards Safe?
  3. #2
    To continue the discussion - Google just announced their new mobile payment platform called Google Wallet with use a near-field communication chip in mobile phones to communicate with credit card readers - allowing you to basically pay from your phone for in store transactions. This will work anywhere that Mastercard Paypass is currently accepted (because it uses the same system) and similar to RFID, the security implications for this technology are yet to be determined.

  4. #3
    Registered User New Member
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    Very interesting - whenever I checkout at my local grocery store I see the Paypass logo but never really understood what it was for - good to know.

  5. #4
    Hey John,
    Yes Paypass works with certain Mastercard credit, debit and business cards that have an RFID chip. There is a full list of cards that include the Paypass technology here - MasterCard PayPass Card | MasterCard®

    Quote Originally Posted by John56 View Post
    Very interesting - whenever I checkout at my local grocery store I see the Paypass logo but never really understood what it was for - good to know.

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