ORLANDO, FLA. - An estimated 200 million "chipped" or RFID credit and debit cards in circulation right now can be scanned and stolen by high tech thieves using nothing more than an enhanced scanner anyone can buy on line for about $20.
[WEB EXTRA: How to protect yourself]
Chris Gilpin, a UCF graduate with a background in computer science and a spokesman for National Crime Stop, says the victims have no idea what is happening because the card never leaves their wallet.
"They (hackers) can boost the signal strength from four inches to 25 feet for eight dollars," Gilpin said.
That boosted signal connects with the RFID or radio frequency, being sent out by the cards allowing the thief to go on a buying spree in seconds.
Gilpin posted an experiment on YouTube where he documented how he was able to collect 63 credit and debit card numbers in 45 minutes as he walked past the lunchtime crowd in downtown Orlando.
"I didn't talk to anybody, Gilpin said. "I just walked through the crowd, which is what these thieves do."
Gilpin says it goes by several names : Pocket Surfing, Wireless Theft and RFID Pick pocketing."
Local 6 investigative reporter Mike Holfeld wanted to see it for himself.
Gilpin used modified equipment tucked in a black satchel as he walked through the food court at the Mall of Millenia last week.
Gilpin was able to catch 19 credit card account numbers and expiration dates in less than two minutes.
For legal purposes, Gilpin only accessed the last four digits of the credit cards but he stressed that thieves can modify the equipment to get all the data they want.
Gilpin has designed a potential solution. He calls it a "bullet proof vest for your wallet" marketed as "Signal Vault."
"It powers up and creates what we call an e-field," Gilpin said. "It will protect as many cards as you have making them invisible to hackers."
Gilpin's Signal Vault sells for just under $15.00. It's about the same size and weight as most credit cards.
In a demonstration in the Local 6 studio, Gilpin showed us how an RFID card triggers a standard scanner at about two inches away. But when he placed the Signal Vault behind the card it blocked the signal.
The scanner tone never sounded when the credit card was near the Signal Vault.
For more information go to Signal Vault's website.