FORT MYERS, Fla. - Being at risk for pick pocketing has never been easier. Thieves don't need to steal your wallet, they can just walk right past you. WINK News Call for Action Investigator Genevieve Judge shows you how you can protect yourself from this happening.
The days of carrying cash are quickly disappearing. More and more people are paying by credit cards but if you're not careful, the convenience of easy pay could be an easy way for crooks to cash in.
With a simple swipe and some willing passers-by, WINK News watched Walt Augustinowicz of Identity Stronghold steal credit card number after credit card number. In Fort Myers one day and in Naples two weeks later.
"There is literally hundreds of millions of new credit cards being issued with these little radio chips with no off switch," said Augustinowicz.
Problem is, you may never even know it happened. It's all thanks to radio frequency identification or RFID technology. It is a chip inside some American Express cards or other cards with a symbol that looks like a wi-fi symbol on the back of your card, meaning your card can transmit information.
"Unfortunately anyone can get a reader off the internet and walk through the crowd and scan these right through your pocket, right through your purse and get everything they need to make a purchase," said Augustinowicz.
The cards that have the technology make it so you can do things like wave and pay where you just wave your card to pay instead of swiping. But the scanners that read cards can be bought for as little as $100 on Ebay. It's why Jack Sutton of Cape Coral bought a wallet that shields radio transmitting credit cards.
"You're not supposed to be afraid of the things you can't see but if you're not knowledgeable enough to be concerned about those things, then you really ought to wake up and smell the coffee," said Sutton.
Back in Fort Myers and Naples, Augustinowicz is helping protect credit card owners that don't know about the dangers of RFID technology being stolen.
"I didn't realize it was that easy for your number to be stolen just somebody walking by," said Jim Bowdren, who lives in Fort Myers.
Security issues are why Augustinowicz started Identity Stronghold. Based in Englewood, they manufacture tyvex sleeves and wallets that have a special shielding material inside to block RFID technology from being lifted from your pocket or purse.
"Nationwide we're probably talking about three or four out of every 10 have at least one of these cards on them and don't even know it," said Augustinowicz.
So what can you do if you have a card that could be at risk of being stolen? Augustinowicz says call your bank. Tell them you don't want the cards with the pay pass symbol or radio chip.
"Most people don't realize they have the card so they're not even using the functionality where they can just wave to pay anyways so why put everybody in danger by letting them broadcast this information?" said Augustinowicz.
Now if you want, you can wrap your credit card in tin foil, that will also block radio transmissions. But the sleeves, they're sold from Cape Coral north at places like Walgreens through Identity Stronghold. For more information on Identity Stronghold, visit http://www.idstronghold.com/