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Electronic Pick pocketing - Protect Yourself

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By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Pick-pockets are going high tech. Crooks are now exploiting the technology on your credit card. They can steal your card number right out of your wallet without ever touching you. It's quick, scary, and it could happen to you. We're talking about electronic pick-pocketing. A security expert demonstrates just how easy it's done.

"If I'm walking through a crowd, I get near people's back pocket and their wallet, I just need to be this close to it and there's my credit card and expiration date on the screen," said Walt Augustinowicz.

Armed with a credit card reader for less than a hundred bucks that you can buy online, and a net-book computer, Augustinowicz says anyone can steal your credit or debit card information. He makes security sleeves and special wallets to protect people from the crime. Criminals can pick up the credit card's with radio frequency identification or RFID.

U.S. Passports issued since 2006 have the same technology that can be read and swiped.

"It gives me a lot of personal information like your date of birth, your photo, if I wanted to make some sort of ID," Augustinowicz said.

We wanted to know just how concerned people should be about electronic pick-pocketing, Senior Special Agent, Sal Girgente is with the High Technology Crimes Division with the Virginia State Police.

"You should be concerned about it, however you have to keep it in perspective," he said.

Girgente says people shouldn't panic. Also, keep in mind not all credit cards are embeded with the technology, and the person committing the crime would have to be really close to you.

"Not everybody keeps their credit card in the same place. A person who wants to scan has to know here on your body it is and I don't think you are going to stand there if someone waves a device over your entire body like that," he added.

If you're wondering how you can protect yourself, you have a couple of options, you can buy a credit card sleeve that will cost you about 20 bucks or you can you something most people have in their homes, foil.

"It's a thicker variety not the thin one," Girgente said. 

He adds he is not sure if this will impact the magnetic strip in the card. You may want to check with your card provider.

There are no reports in the state of the crime happening and even if it did occur police say it would be difficult to prove.

"You have to know that you're the victim of RFID theft in order to report it. Most people aren't going to know that unless we get it in progress, with the thief and the victim in the same place at the same time," said Girgente.

No matter the crime - Girgente says you should always be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you want to know if your card has the RFID technology, check with your card provider. Remember, report it right away, if your card is stolen or you notice any fraudulent activity. Also keep in mind, your maximum liability under federal law, for fraudulent use of your card is $50.

For more information on Electronic Pick-pocketing visit MarketWatch. And to find out your rights if your ATM, Debit, or credit cards is stolen visit the F-T-C website. The RFID symbol varies but it may be similar to the Visa Paywave.

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