Swiped: Credit card transmissions vulnerable to identity thieves


The next time you're in a retail store paying for your purchase with a credit or debit card, you may want to take a deep breath. That credit card machine that verifies your customer status and credit line/checking account balance may be broadcasting that sensitive financial information right into the air. With the right equipment, data thieves may even be able to snatch it.

Similar to how some folks piggyback on their neighbors' Wi-Fi wireless internet connections, data thieves could be sitting outside the entrance to a local Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) or Target (NYSE: TGT) location just waiting to snatch those wireless transmissions from the air and possibly see all that personal, financial information. Yes, it's the kind used to steal one's identity.

According to some industry watchers, purchasing goods this holiday season using a website and credit card may actually be safer than swiping a physical card at a retail location just due to the security provided. Are those wireless credit card machines securely encrypted at all your favorite retail locations?

Sounds odd, but it never hurts to ask for a store manager and see what the answer is. Otherwise, one of those retailers could be broadcasting your information to whoever is listening just outside the door. With millions of credit card transactions set to take place in the next month, perhaps the information technology teams of these retailers should ensure customer information is completely protected.