|Camera Cell Phones Used to Take Pictures of Credit Cards|
|Netlore Archive: Email warns that criminals have found a new means of committing identity theft taking a picture of your credit card with a cell phone camera|
Email example contributed by C. Wood, 14 Jan. 2004:
Something to think about.
Keep a watch out for people standing near you at retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. that have a cell phone in hand. With the new camera cell phones, they can take a picture of your credit card, which gives them your name, number, and expiration date. Identification theft is one of the fastest growing scams today, and this is just another example of the means that are being used. So...be aware of your surroundings.
Email example contributed by B. Shaffner, 24 Aug. 2004:
Subject: Fw: RCMP Bulletin
Advisory from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Email example contributed by I. Hamet, 1 Nov. 2004:
Keep a watch out for people standing near you in the checkout line at retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. who have a camera cell phone in hand. With the camera cell phones, they can take a picture of your credit card, which gives them your name, number, and expiration date. CBS reported this type of identification theft is one of the fastest growing scams today. Be aware of your surroundings, forward to all your friends and family.
Comments: Approximately two weeks after this anonymous message began circulating in January 2004, police departments from Colorado to New Jersey began issuing similar alerts to the press, in some cases using phrasings identical to the above. It's unclear, therefore, whether this information came originally from police sources, or whether the latter are simply passing along the contents of an email rumor.
It is true that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes worldwide and that identity thieves have been known to employ any means necessary, from dumpster diving to online fraud, to steal personal information from unsuspecting consumers. It is sensible to assume that if cell phone cameras can be used to take covert pictures of other people's credit cards, they will be.
Some have questioned whether many of the camera phone models currently available in the U.S. are capable of producing clear enough images to make this ploy practicable indeed, in at least one casual experiment discussed on the Internet and similar ones conducted by TV news organizations, the attempt failed. Moreover, it would seem no easy task to maneuver a cell phone camera into the proper position and to do so inconspicuously near a retail check-out stand to capture a close-up photo of a victim's credit card.
Such caveats aside, the scenario remains theoretically possible and is certain to become more feasible over time as the quality of camera phones improves. Law enforcement officials are taking it seriously, so consumers are best advised to do the same.
Sources and further reading:
Camera Phone Scam?
WCPO.com, 10 February 2004
Can Cell Phones Capture Credit Card Numbers?
NewsNet5.com, 16 February 2004
New Privacy Menace: Cell Phones?
Wired News, 17 February 2004
Consumer Alert: Cell phone camera identity theft
WIS-TV, 2 August 2004
Growing Use of Camera Cell Phones Shows How New Technology Can Bring Out the Best and the Worst
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 Oct. 2004
Last updated: 11/20/04