New technology allows credit card numbers to be stolen by just walking by

TAMPA - It's old fashioned pickpocketing, but this one comes with a new twist.  Would-be thieves now have the tools to swipe your credit card numbers, simply by standing near you, maybe in line at the store, at a ballgame, or a parade.

Walt Augustinowicz took us to Ybor City to show us how thieves could be picking your pocket without ever laying a hand on you. He tried it on a group of tourists.

Susan Morris is first. Blending in with a computer bag over his shoulder and a fake shopping bag in his hand, he waved it past Morris’ purse. It picks up her Master Card in a matter of seconds.

He shows her the number of her card. “You want to compare that number,” asks Augustinowicz?  “It's mine,” says Morris. “It's definitely mine. I know because it just happened to me at Christmas time,” she says in an annoyed tone.

Minutes later, he walks up to Gary Daloisio and, with his permission, gets his credit card information in two seconds flat.

Augustinowicz is not a thief. He owns a Sarasota company called Identity Stronghold. He's trying to stop crooks from what he calls a potential loophole coming to your credit and debit cards, if you don't have them already.

Take a close look at your credit cards, especially the newer ones. Companies put a symbol on the back of the card that look like radio waves. Those lines mean your card has a built-in radio frequency, also known as RFID.

It's the next big thing in technology so that all you have to do is simply wave your credit card at the register. You never need to hand it over and swipe it. “People have to know the dangers out there or they don't know how to protect themselves,” says Augustinowicz.

The scanning device Augustinowiz uses was put together for under a hundred bucks with items readily found on eBay.

But some security experts say electronic pickpocketing is not really practical or useful for ID thieves because the one thing it does not pick up is that precious three digit code on the back of your credit card. Those digits are crucial for thieves who want to take your card on an online shopping spree.

ABC Action News wanted to find out if Augustinowicz is making a fuss over nothing. We randomly picked three large retailers and surprisingly, 2 of the 3 did not ask us for that security code when we ordered online or over the phone. Add to that, Walt says his scanner swipes an embedded three digit code that thieves can use to clone your card and use at any store.

The major credit card companies insist that their cards are secure because of multiple built-in security features, and that your name and address are protected. “The US Secret Service who investigates payment fraud has gone on record saying there is no evidence of any kind of fraud based on scanning of contactless credit cards,” says Randy Vanderhoof, Executive Director of the Smart Card Alliance.  Walt says this experiment proves them wrong.

So why is Augustinowicz raising all these red flags? His company sells wallets for men and women and credit card sleeves that block this type of theft. A credit or debit card in the sleeve can't be electronically stolen. Credit card companies say even if they are, your fraud protection is all the protection you need.

For Mastercard’s response to this story, click on this link:

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