Electronic Pickpocketing

Written by James Overby, Seltek Helpdesk Intern

What is “Electronic Pickpocketing” and how does it happen?

“Electronic pickpocketing,” also known as “Digital Pickpocketing, “ is a process in which a target’s credit card information is stolen in a public setting using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) wireless technologies. This type of theft can happen when getting gas, walking down the street, or paying at a restaurant. Recently this form of theft has become easier and more accessible for hackers to use due to the improvement in RFID technology.  Criminals can use wireless devices to read credit cards that have embedded RFID strips. This strip has many positive impacts such as contactless payment solutions, but it can also expose cardholders to financial fraud.


How to prevent “Electronic Pickpocketing”

There are numerous ways to prevent electronic pickpocketing. Most solutions are very convenient and do not require much effort.

Buy RFID Blocking Products

There are many manufacturers producing RFID blocking products, such as wallets, passport protectors, and card sleeves.  Some companies even sell items such as handbags that provide RFID blocking. Also available are microchips that disrupt the signal that hackers use to steal information.

RFID wallet 2019The picture shown on the left is a clutch that has RFID protection made into the bag. (Available for $29.99 USD on Articulate)

Shield your cards

There are numerous ways to “shield” credit cards from hackers. One very easy way is to bundle two or more cards with RFID chips together. This makes it so that the scanner can’t read the cards since they’re so close. .. Another way to shield cards is by wrapping them in thick aluminum foil, or simply putting the aluminum in your wallet. The foil acts as an electromagnetic buffer that protects credit card information from theft.

Replace RFID Cards

The image is one of the many symbols that represents RFID; if you see this symbol on any of your cards it meansRFIS symbol you could be at risk of electronic pickpocketing. Fortunately, you can request the card issuer to replace the RFID-embedded card with a non-RFID card. Many card issuers are replacing old cards with new ones that have RFID technology, so be aware of what technology your card supports to protect your financial information from theft.



Today more than 25% of all credit card payments are made using RFID technology due to the ease of touchless transactions. Unfortunately, this also encourages electronic or digital pickpocketing. RFID technology will most likely grow, as it is gaining mass popularity. Thankfully RFID hacking in the US is rare, mainly because RFID technology typically limits the transaction in America. As of 2014 many banks are replacing older cards with a new EMV chip that protects cards better than an RFID card. Keep in mind that any card (ID badges, some driver’s licenses, and medical bracelets) with RFID chips can potentially be read by these criminals. If you have RFID cards of any type,  implement the many ways to protect yourself from electronic pickpocketing to avoid financial identity theft.