RFID skimming

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RFID skimming is a method to unlawfully obtain someone's payment card information using a RFID reading device.


How RFID skimming is performed

Modern payment cards have a built in chip that transmits the cards' information wirelessly. This is because it is necessary in order to enable contactless payments, which has become increasingly popular during recent years. [1] Criminals can take advantage of this new technology by using a scanner that wirelessly scans the victim's payment card in the same way that a cash register scans it, when making a contactless payment. These scanners are legal and can be bought in regular electronics stores.

Most modern mobile phones running Android OS have a built in NFC reader that can be used to unlawfully scan contactless payment cards. A criminal can hide the scanner e.g. inside a glove or a bag, and then place it close to the victim and wirelessly steal the victim's payment card information. [2]

With the wirelessly obtained payment card information, the criminal can use it to make fraudulent purchases online.[ citation needed ] This is called card-not-present fraud.

Methods similar to RFID payment card skimming may also be used for copying other RFID-based proximity cards, such as those used for keycard locks. 125 kHz RFID and other systems relying on a unique identifier number (UID) are vulnerable to this. [3] [4]


Card-not-present fraud has increased rapidly between 2012 and 2016. [5] In the United Kingdom an increase could be seen in card not present fraud - from 750,200 reported cases in 2012, to 1,437,832 reported cases in 2016. [6] However, there are no statistics available regarding RFID skimming, as it is difficult to determine the method of card fraud. [7]

RFID skimming compared to other types of skimming

In contrast to other types of skimming such as ATM skimming or hacking an online merchant's web page, RFID skimming requires little or no technical expertise. In order to execute ATM skimming, the criminal needs to custom build a device, then place that device inside an ATM and later pick up the device after the victims have used it. Hacking online merchants' web pages requires substantial computer knowledge.[ citation needed ]


A common myth that is often mentioned by card issuers is that a criminal can only steal the maximum amount that is allowed for contactless purchases. This sum is usually between US$30–50 and is different for each country. This has been proven wrong in a test by British consumer magazine Which? . In the test they successfully used wirelessly obtained payment card information to make an online purchase of over £ 3,000. [2]

Methods for preventing RFID skimming

Metal foil

Shielding is possible by wrapping the payment card in aluminum foil. However aluminium foil tends to wear out quickly. Informal tests found that the shielding effect was not 100% effective, though it did very much reduce the maximum range for reading, from about 1.5 feet (50 cm) to 1–2 inches (3–5 cm). [8]

Permanent disabling of RFID functionality

RFID functionality can be disabled permanently by cutting internal wires; the use of a microwave oven has also been reported successful, according to informal reports. [9] Cutting requires location of the internal wires, followed by cutting, drilling, or heating. Methods that visibly damage the card may lead to it being rejected as a payment method when presented to a retailer in the normal way.

RFID Blocking materials

There are RFID-blocking wallets, purses, sleeves, and cards. Wallets, purses, and sleeves work by acting as a Faraday cage which creates a screen around contactless cards, which stops electromagnetic fields interacting with the cards. [10]

Related Research Articles

Mobile payment Payment services via a mobile device

Mobile payment generally refer to payment services operated under financial regulation and performed from or via a mobile device. Instead of paying with cash, cheque, or credit cards, a consumer can use a mobile to pay for a wide range of services and digital or hard goods. Although the concept of using non-coin-based currency systems has a long history, it is only in the 21st century that the technology to support such systems has become widely available.

Near-field communication Radio communication established between devices by bringing them into proximity

Near-field communication (NFC) is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices over a distance of 4 cm or less. NFC offers a low-speed connection through a simple setup that can be used to bootstrap more-capable wireless connections. Like other "proximity card" technologies, NFC is based on inductive coupling between two so-called antennas present on NFC-enabled devices—for example a smartphone and a printer—communicating in one or both directions, using a frequency of 13.56 MHz in the globally available unlicensed radio frequency ISM band using the ISO/IEC 18000-3 air interface standard at data rates ranging from 106 to 424 kbit/s.

EMV Smart payment card standard

EMV is a payment method based on a technical standard for smart payment cards and for payment terminals and automated teller machines which can accept them. EMV stands for "Europay, Mastercard, and Visa", the three companies that created the standard.

Verifone is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Coral Springs, Florida, that provides technology for electronic payment transactions and value-added services at the point-of-sale. Verifone sells merchant-operated, consumer-facing and self-service payment systems to the financial, retail, hospitality, petroleum, government and healthcare industries. The company's products consist of POS electronic payment devices that run its own operating systems, security and encryption software, and certified payment software, and that are designed for both consumer-facing and unattended environments.

Payment card Card issued by a financial institution that can be used to make a payment

Payment cards are part of a payment system issued by financial institutions, such as a bank, to a customer that enables its owner to access the funds in the customer's designated bank accounts, or through a credit account and make payments by electronic transfer and access automated teller machines (ATMs). Such cards are known by a variety of names including bank cards, ATM cards, client cards, key cards or cash cards.

A card reader is a data input device that reads data from a card-shaped storage medium. The first were punched card readers, which read the paper or cardboard punched cards that were used during the first several decades of the computer industry to store information and programs for computer systems. Modern card readers are electronic devices that can read plastic cards embedded with either a barcode, magnetic strip, computer chip or another storage medium.

Contactless smart card Allowing for contactless payments in credit and debit cards

A contactless smart card is a contactless credential whose dimensions are credit-card size. Its embedded integrated circuits can store data and communicate with a terminal via NFC. Commonplace uses include transit tickets, bank cards and passports.

NETS (company)

Network for Electronic Transfers, colloquially known as NETS, is a Singaporean electronic payment service provider. Founded in 1985, by a consortium of local banks, it aims to establish the debit network and drive the adoption of electronic payments in Singapore. It is owned by DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB).

A digital wallet, also known as e-wallet, is an electronic device, online service, or software program that allows one party to make electronic transactions with another party bartering digital currency units for goods and services. This can include purchasing items on-line with a computer or using a smartphone to purchase something at a store. Money can be deposited in the digital wallet prior to any transactions or, in other cases, an individual's bank account can be linked to the digital wallet. Users might also have their driver's license, health card, loyalty card(s) and other ID documents stored within the wallet. The credentials can be passed to a merchant's terminal wirelessly via near field communication (NFC).

Contactless payment Technology enabling payment without physical contact

Contactless payment systems are credit cards and debit cards, key fobs, smart cards, or other devices, including smartphones and other mobile devices, that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near-field communication for making secure payments. The embedded integrated circuit chip and antenna enable consumers to wave their card, fob, or handheld device over a reader at the point of sale terminal. Contactless payments are made in close physical proximity, unlike other types of mobile payments which use broad-area cellular or WiFi networks and do not involve close physical proximity.

Payment terminal

A payment terminal, also known as a point of sale (POS) terminal, credit card terminal, EFTPOS terminal, is a device which interfaces with payment cards to make electronic funds transfers. The terminal typically consists of a secure keypad for entering PIN, a screen, a means of capturing information from payments cards and a network connection to access the payment network for authorization.

Credit card fraud is an inclusive term for fraud committed using a payment card, such as a credit card or debit card. The purpose may be to obtain goods or services or to make payment to another account, which is controlled by a criminal. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is the data security standard created to help financial institutions process card payments securely and reduce card fraud.

Wireless identity theft, also known as contactless identity theft or RFID identity theft, is a form of identity theft described as "the act of compromising an individual’s personal identifying information using wireless mechanics." Numerous articles have been written about wireless identity theft and broadcast television has produced several investigations of this phenomenon. According to Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, wireless identity theft is a serious issue as the contactless (wireless) card design is inherently flawed, increasing the vulnerability to attacks.

A payment processor is a system that enables financial transactions, commonly employed by a merchant, to handle transactions with customers from various channels such as credit cards and debit cards or bank accounts. They are usually broken down into two types: front-end and back-end.

Apple Wallet Mobile app used to store personal information

Apple Wallet, or simply Wallet and formerly known as Passbook, is a digital wallet developed by Apple Inc. and included with iOS and watchOS that allows users to store Wallet passes such as coupons, boarding passes, student ID cards, government ID cards, business credentials, resort passes, car keys, home keys, event tickets, public transportation passes, store cards, and – starting with iOS 8.1 – credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards for use via Apple Pay. Wallet was introduced as Passbook with iOS 6 on September 19, 2012. It was renamed Wallet with the release of iOS 9 in 2015. Wallet is also the main interface for Apple Card, Apple's credit card released in the U.S. on August 20, 2019.

Microsoft Pay was a mobile payment and digital wallet service by Microsoft that allowed users make payments and store loyalty cards on certain mobile devices, as well on PCs using the Microsoft Edge browser. Microsoft Pay does not require Microsoft Pay-specific contactless payment terminals, and supported existing contactless terminals if used on mobile devices. Similar to Android Pay, Microsoft Pay utilized host card emulation (HCE) for making in-store payments.

Apple Pay is a mobile payment service by Apple Inc. that allows users to make payments in person, in iOS apps, and on the web using Safari. It is supported on these Apple devices: iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac. It digitizes and can replace a credit or debit card chip and PIN transaction at a contactless-capable point-of-sale terminal. It does not require Apple Pay-specific contactless payment terminals; it can work with any merchant that accepts contactless payments. It adds two-factor authentication via Touch ID, Face ID, PIN, or passcode. Devices wirelessly communicate with point of sale systems using near field communication (NFC), with an embedded secure element (eSE) to securely store payment data and perform cryptographic functions, and Apple's Touch ID and Face ID for biometric authentication.

LG Pay Mobile payment service

LG Pay was a mobile payment and digital wallet service by LG Electronics that let users make payments using compatible phones. The service supported contactless payments using near-field communications (NFC), but also incorporated wireless magnetic communication that allowed contactless payments to be used on payment terminals that only supported magnetic stripe transactions.

Google Pay (payment method) Mobile payments platform developed by Google

Google Pay is a mobile payment service developed by Google to power in-app, online, and in-person contactless purchases on mobile devices, enabling users to make payments with Android phones, tablets, or watches. Users can authenticate via a PIN, passcode, or biometrics such as 3D face scanning or fingerprint recognition.

Google Wallet is a digital wallet platform developed by Google. It is available for the Android and Wear OS operating systems, and was announced on May 11, 2022, at the 2022 Google I/O keynote. It began rolling out on Android smartphones on July 18, co-existing with the 2020 Google Pay app and replacing the 2018 one.


  1. "1 billion Visa contactless purchases made in last year". www.visaeurope.com. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  2. 1 2 Bachelor, Lisa (2015-07-23). "Contactless card fraud is too easy, says Which?". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  3. Maxsenti, Mike (23 May 2017). "How to Clone an RFID Key Card for Less Than $11 – And How to Defend Against It". Genea.
  4. Mehl, Bernhard. "Step-by-Step: How to Copy RFID and NFC Access Cards & Key Fobs". www.getkisi.com.
  5. PYMNTS (2017-01-18). "Card-Not-Present Fraud Picking Up In U.S." PYMNTS.com. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  6. "Financial Fraud Action UK - Fraud the Facts". www.financialfraudaction.org.uk. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  7. "What is RFID Blocking (and Why You Don't Really Need It)". FinanceBuzz. November 7, 2019.
  8. "Aluminum Foil Does Not Stop RFID". Omniscience is Bliss.
  9. NTT (2013-09-15). "How to Disable 'Contactless Payment' on Your Debit Card". instructables circuits. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  10. Miczulski, Matt (7 November 2019). "What is RFID Blocking (and Why You Don't Really Need It)". FinanceBuzz.