You probably know common ways to avoid identity theft; you don’t share your social security number with strangers and you make sure personal mail and paperwork does not fall into the wrong hands. However, you might not be aware of a more high-tech kind of crime commonly referred to as wireless identity theft. Thieves who commit this type of crime rely on the data encoded on cards in your wallet to access all the information they need about you. It is important to understand this crime and how you can reduce the chances it will happen to you.
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The Basics of Wireless Identity Theft
Wireless identity theft is also known as RFID identity theft due to its use of radio frequency identification. RFID uses chips to transmit data from modern credit or ID cards. The cards respond to certain radio frequencies and send data relevant to the card, such as owners’ bank information. This allows cashiers to quickly perform sales transactions without the need to swipe your bank card. Identification checks can be confirmed much faster in a security line at the airport, for example, with RF-enabled passports. While this process certainly makes transactions easier and saves time compared to manual ID checks and swiping bank cards at a terminal, it does come with a significant problem. The signals meant for a cashier or airport security terminal can be intercepted by thieves.
Criminals use scanners to gather the same data on your cards that should only be used for financial transactions or to identify you. Your personal information may include your name, address, and Social Security number along with any account data associated with the card. Thieves collect your information from their RFID scanners and use it to perform identity theft crimes.
How to Avoid Wireless Identity Theft
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can avoid becoming a victim of a thief’s RFID scanner. The first step you need to take is to contact the financial institutions associated with your credit and bank cards. Find out which cards in your wallet use radio frequency identification. All passports issued by the United States use this technology, so you will need to decide if you can leave any of your cards that are vulnerable and your passport at home. Criminals using scanners in retail locations cannot gather information from you if you are only carrying cash.
As it is not always practical to leave your cards at home and only use cash, and you must have your passport for traveling, you need to block thieves from accessing your bank and ID cards. The best way to do this is with special wallets, such as RFID and incognito wallets, which are made of materials that obstruct the RFID signals so scanners cannot collect your information.
Be vigilant about your identity; even if you are leaving cards at home and using a secure wallet, check your bank statements and credit report regularly for fraudulent activities and report anything suspicious right away. Criminals are using wireless identity theft to gather your data, but understanding the process and taking a few steps to reduce your chances will help you keep your information safe.