Action Line: Protect your financial information from thieves

Even though new features are being added to help protect your personal information, thieves are keeping up with technology and are finding ways to steal your information right out of thin air.

Take credit cards. Over the last six years, banks and credit card companies have been changing the form and function of their cards by embedding in them with either “smart chips” that stores the user’s encrypted account information, or radio frequency identification chips. They’re designed to contain additional layers of security, compared to the ones with just the traditional magnetic strip.

But they’re not a hundred percent fail-safe. Tech expert Chris Duque said “we heard rumors, and have heard cases on the mainland, where individuals have used certain devices to scan the cards without the user or owner knowing about it.”

In fact, a backpack containing a high-tech scanning device can capture a person’s credit card information as it comes close.

Duque said cards with the radio frequency chips are the most vulnerable, so banks are switching to the ones with the “smart chips” in them.

“The new chip cards that are beginning to emerge are much more secure,” said Edward Pei, executive director of the Hawaii Bankers Association. “They have a lot more intelligence, a lot more capabilities, to authenticate the card.”

There are also specially made wallets and card carriers on the market that purport to protect cards from scanning devices.

Plus, Duque said taking the usual precautions like checking your bank statements and monitoring your credit activity can help uncover fraudulent activity.

“I would say use the same precautions you normally do with a credit card and your wallet and your handbag,” he said. “Keep it close to your body and keep it secure.

“Make no mistake, the banks stand behind any unauthorized fraud usage of the cards anyway, whether it’s a chip card or a magnetic stripe card.”

But Duque added that “the thing that scares me the most is that our personal information, our financial information data, is a new commodity.”

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