More Fearmongering About “Electronic Pickpocketing”


Whenever I notice an article about credit cards in my local media, I take note. Today, the buzzword was “electronic pickpocketing” on the home page of one of my local television stations here in Denver. When I went back to find the article just a few hours later, it had already been usurped by severe weather and celebrity gossip. A quick search uncovered the identical article at the Sacramento station’s web site. The gist of the article is that about 20% of our credit cards currently contain a chip that will allow someone with the right equipment to read it without physical contact. That equipment could be a credit card reader at your big box store, or an $8 device owned by a hacker. Think of it as a wireless skimmer.

Not The Same As Chip and Pin

For some time now, Americans have felt left behind as our European friends and others around the world had already developed a system of wireless payments. These Chip And Pin systems were much like the current system in place, with one key difference. As the name implies, you not only need to read the chip in the card, but the user must also enter his or her Personal identification Number (PIN). It seems as if our current system only requires proximity in order to read the information one’s credit card.

The Real Problem With Wireless Credit Card Technology

As someone who constantly reads and writes about credit cards, I have found almost no information about the current system embedded in several of my cards. Retailers know even less about this system. I know that Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have extensive websites and massive advertising budgets, yet they have spend zero effort letting anyone know about these systems. Actually, I am shocked that hackers have finally gotten around to learning about this vulnerability, even as they are specialists in finding hidden features to exploit.

Once Again, You Never Have To Be The Victim Of Credit Card Fraud

Hackers can skim my card, read it wirelessly, or even photograph it from space for all I care. As I have said many times before, all the media is doing is scaremongering. Cardholders are never liable for fraudulent charges. We are never the victim of theft, only our banks are. The knowledge that any theft of my card or its numbers will never affect me is one of the key features of this system that make it a superior method of payment. Cash can be stolen, forged checks must be canceled on time, and don’t even get me started on wire fraud and schemes involving cashier’s checks. The only obligation you have to protect yourself from fraud is to notice a fraudulent charge and inform your bank. You even have 90 days from when you notice the charge to file the complaint.

My Favorite Part

The article mentions aluminum wallets as a possible defense against he so-called menace of “Electronic Pickpocketing”.  I would say that the last thing I would ever do is carry such a thing except the alternative sounds even worse. Supposedly, you can wrap your wallet in aluminum foil. I can just imagine having to explain to people every time I pull out my tin foil wrapped wallet that I am not a paranoid, mentally disturbed individual who fears a government campaign to implant microchips in my brain.

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