Ask Amy: Should I worry about thieves and “tap to pay” credit card technology?

(Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

As you tap your credit card to make a payment you may wonder, does this technology make it easier for my information to get stolen There are devices that promise to protect you, but do they work?

RFID blocking devices and your personal information

Rick from Deer Park emailed asking if thieves can steal your credit card information right through the air. He sent us the email he got from a company that claims to have a device for your wallet that will block “radio frequency identification” or “RFID” signals. RFID is the use of radio waves to read information from an electronic chip, like on your credit cards.

(Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Here’s what we found out about this topic. RFID signal theft is not such a big worry anymore. Security experts used to worry about RFID technology, but not so much anymore. Consumer Reports explains that years ago, RFID signals had a range of more than 300 feet. But now that range is as little as an inch or two from the item to the receiver.

It would be hard for a hacker to get that close without you knowing it.

And any item - like clothing or a regular wallet - between the card and receiver cuts that range even more. It also takes more than just a bump for the transaction to occur. Both the sending and receiving devices must be ready to accept the transfer.

Even if by some super slim chance, a hacker does end up intercepting that “touch to pay” transaction they won’t be able to make a ton of charges. Credit card makers use a unique code during each transmission that can only be used one time. (Again, it would be SUPER RARE for this to even happen.)

Consumer Reports says for all of these reasons RFID-blocking devices that claim to stop signals are generally unnecessary. If you think you have been the victim of any type of credit card theft, the Federal Trade Commission tracks these types of complaints.

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About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.