Smartphones Used to Remotely Read Credit Card Data

Dennis Faas's picture

Most of us carry credit and debit cards equipped with a special chip that makes it faster and easier to buy an item. But new applications available for the latest smartphones could give scam artists an opportunity to make charges on your credit card account.

The cards feature a chip that allows customers to tap or quickly swipe their cards in order to make a purchase.

However, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology could place users of those cards at risk. That's because NFC applications, which can be downloaded to Google Android-based smartphones, can be used to acquire information about a card user.

Smartphone Purchases Coming, Thanks to NFC

Near Field Communications represents one of the mobile world's most exciting new technologies. It's possible that, in the next few years, users of NFC-equipped smartphones will be able to make purchases simply by using their handheld devices.

In a recent investigation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) researchers found that using Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone and a Starbucks app downloaded from the Google Play store, they were able to read cardholder name, card expiry date, and card number from a nearby credit card.

The researchers admit they had to get within 10 centimetres (4 inches) of the card in order to scan it. (Source:

However, it's expected that upcoming smartphones, including the highly-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4, will feature NFC technology that allows for more distance between the device and the item being scanned.

NFC Exploited by Scam Artists

Security expert Michael Legary says his firm, Seccuris Inc., has been involved in several cases where NFC-equipped phones were used to rip off credit card users.

In those cases, Legary says NFC was used by scam artists to purchase "anything from a $1.50 drink from a drink machine to a $4,000 to $5,000 laptop." (Source:

In fact, Legary says that NFC technology is now becoming a favorite tool of organized crime syndicates in Europe.

"They don't even need to talk to you or touch you, they can get information about who you are," Legary said. "That may make you more of a target for certain types of crime." (Source:

Visa and MasterCard told the CBC that they don't know of any cases where this kind of fraud has been carried out. However, both companies say they would be willing to reimburse a customer affected by such a scam.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet