The following article has nothing to do with genealogy, but I believe every consumer should be aware of this. I suggest you forward the original article at http://www1.whdh.com/features/articles/specialreport/BO144732/ to anyone you think might be interested.
Are you aware that modern-day thieves can read the numbers of some of the credit cards in your pocket or purse without your knowledge? You do not have to remove the credit cards, and the thieves do not need to see the cards. They certainly do not have to tell you that they are collecting the credit card numbers. All they have to do is walk past you in a crowd.
Take a close look at your credit cards, especially the newer ones. Do they have this radio waves symbol? See the image to the right for one example. The symbol on your credit card might be smaller. The symbol might also be on the reverse, as shown in this second picture. Not all vulnerable credit cards have that symbol, however.
The credit card has a tiny RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) chip embedded in the plastic. The embedded chip allows the cardholder to just wave the card in front of a credit card reader to make a purchase instead of swiping it.
Amanda Grace, a reporter at WHDH Television in Boston, recently accompanied an electronics expert who was able to read credit cards from a distance of five or ten feet. As the television camera crew recorded their activities, the two asked permission of the consumers in advance and then read the credit cards in their pockets or purses. A thief undoubtedly won't ask and won't be followed by a camera crew.
The two entered a crowded shopping mall a few days before Christmas. The electronics expert carried a small electronic device that is capable of reading RFID chips within a few feet and a tiny, handheld Windows netbook computer. Those chips embedded in credit cards remained in each shopper's pocket or purse, but the handheld electronic scanner read them anyway.
The required RFID scanner is very easy to obtain. Amanda Grace says the scanners are available all over the Internet, some for as little as $20. The electronics expert is quoted as saying, "... there are plenty to choose from. I did a quick search and found this one. And it's not against the law to buy them."
We have now reached a point where it is SAFER to use credit cards online rather than in person, even safer than simply carrying a credit card in your pocket or purse.
You can read the full article at http://www1.whdh.com/features/articles/specialreport/BO144732/
You can find many RFID readers for sale if you start with a Google search at http://goo.gl/EhR7M
For a detailed and somewhat technical description of RFID technology, look at Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rfid
Here is a note to anyone in London: your Oyster card contains an RFID chip.
I am thinking of leaving my credit cards at home. A second solution, although not as effective, is to carry the cards inside a shielded container that blocks radio waves. You can find a number of such radio-wave-proof wallets if you start at http://goo.gl/xDIJL. I just ordered mine about five minutes ago from ThinkGeek.com at http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/security/8cdd/
NOTE: Aluminum foil does NOT block radio waves. Wrapping your wallet in foil is a waste of time.
You might want to read "How to block/kill RFID chips" at http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-blockkill-RFID-chips/, scrolling down to click on each NEXT button that’s somewhat obscured under a picture. If you want to permanently disable the chip, you can watch the short video clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qNcQ8doG8Y.
RFID chips may be embedded in credit cards as well as in devices called "Speedpass" or "PayPass." Also, keep in mind that RFID chips are not restricted to credit cards and credit devices. All U.S. passports issued in the past few years contain RFID chips, as do the passports issued by a number of other countries. Many corporations are issuing employee ID cards that contain RFID chips. Most gambling casinos now use RFID chips in high-value chips. RFID chips are also embedded in library books, containers of pharmaceuticals (especially the painkiller OxyContin), and in windshield-mounted devices used to pay fees on toll roads.
What's in YOUR wallet?