Electronic pickpocketing threat has existed for years

“Electronic pickpocketing,” the process by which identity thieves can steal payment information from credit cards with embedded RFID chips, has been known to Visa since it first patented this type of card, according to a report from Denver, Colorado, television station KWGN. Despite this, it has issued millions of these cards without a warning to consumers.

“[U]nfortunately, due to the wireless nature of the contactless portable electronic devices, it is entirely possible that a contactless reader may be used for surreptitious interrogation (e.g., data skimming),” said the company’s 2006 patent filing, according to the news station.

Thieves can obtain the information stored on these RFID chips using nothing but a laptop and a portable RFID reader, which can be purchased legally online. Fortunately for consumers, encasing these cards in specially designed sleeves, also available online, will block information from being transmitted.