Electronic pickpockets target Dartmouth shoppers

Electronic pickpocketing has many Nova Scotians looking to protect themselves during the holiday shopping season.

RFID chips make checkout faster but open people up to theft

Electronic pickpocketing has many Nova Scotians looking to protect themselves during the holiday shopping season.

"Tap" cards, which have become increasingly widespread, use radio frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded in plastic credit and debit cards to make checkout faster — but it also makes identity theft easier.

Smartphones can be adapted to read RFID frequencies from a distance.

Sarah Fakkeldy suspects that's what happened to her on Wednesday after a trip to the Dartmouth Crossing Walmart, followed by a call from her bank saying someone was trying to use her bank card.

She says she wasn't alone.

"When we went to the bank to get it checked out, we found out that Thursday alone, they had dealt with 75 people," she said.

Fakkeldy didn't lose any money, but says the CIBC did reimburse others she talked to in line at the bank.

Pascal Fortin, who heads cybersecurity company GoSecure, said this type of fraud is not unusual.

"You can have a reader with compromised software that can do that," he said. "Limited to transactions of $100, which means for the banks, this is pretty acceptable risk."

CIBC has not responded to questions about recent digital thefts.

However, for those concerned about being electronically ripped off, there is a cheap fix to help prevent your card from being scanned at a distance by smartphones or other readers.

Bentleys store manager Chad May sells foil-lined sleeves and metallic wallets.

"We sold our rack five times," he said. "The debit and credit card protectors, we sold a lot of them."

May says he sold many passport shields as well, though the Canadian government has begun issuing sleeves that protect passports from RFID scanners.

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