Electronic Pickpocketing

Definition of Electronic Pickpocketing

Electronic pickpocketing, also known as digital skimming or RFID skimming, refers to the unauthorized extraction of personal information from RFID-enabled cards, typically credit cards or passports, using an electronic device or RFID reader. Criminals use the intercepted data to conduct fraudulent transactions or create counterfeit cards. This form of theft can occur without physical contact, making it difficult for victims to detect it immediately.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Electronic Pickpocketing” can be represented as:ih-lek-tron-ik pik-pok-it-ing

Key Takeaways

  1. Electronic pickpocketing is a form of theft where criminals utilize scanners or devices to steal personal information from RFID enabled items such as credit cards and passports without physically taking them.
  2. Protecting yourself from electronic pickpocketing involves investing in RFID-blocking wallets or sleeves, being vigilant in crowded areas, and regularly monitoring your bank transactions for any suspicious activity.
  3. Educating yourself and others about electronic pickpocketing and the importance of safeguarding personal information is crucial in reducing the risks of becoming a victim of this modern form of theft.

Importance of Electronic Pickpocketing

Electronic pickpocketing is an important term because it refers to the unauthorized access and theft of sensitive information from credit or debit cards, identity cards, or passports through the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

As modern contactless cards and devices are increasingly being used for various transactions, it has also led to a greater possibility of criminals employing discreet and sophisticated electronic means to steal critical personal and financial information.

Understanding the concept of electronic pickpocketing helps individuals and organizations to be more aware of potential risks, implement necessary security measures, and exercise safe practices to reduce the chances of being targeted, thus safeguarding themselves against potential financial losses and identity theft.


Electronic pickpocketing is a modern day phenomenon that refers to the unauthorized and non-consensual access to personal information stored in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips embedded within credit cards, passports, and ID cards. The purpose of electronic pickpocketing is to obtain sensitive data from individuals without their knowledge, so that the perpetrator can carry out illicit activities, such as identity theft and financial fraud.

This tactic capitalizes on our increasing reliance on digital and wireless technologies, leading to the development of devices that can intercept and obtain vital information right from the comfort of the thief’s smartphone or laptop. Electronic pickpocketing is made possible through the use of RFID scanning devices and mobile applications, which facilitate the illegal acquisition of personal and financial data.

Criminals employ these technologies in crowded public areas, where unsuspecting individuals carrying RFID-enabled items can be easily targeted. As the process requires minimal technical knowledge and can be achieved from a distance, victims remain unaware of potential breaches to their personal security.

Consequently, raising awareness and promoting preventive measures has become paramount in the fight against electronic pickpocketing. As technology advances, the need for heightened digital security and protective measures, such as RFID blocking wallets and sleeves, becomes necessary to prevent the misuse of personal information and potential financial losses.

Examples of Electronic Pickpocketing

NFC Skimming at Public Transport: In 2015, a cybersecurity expert demonstrated how easily electronic pickpocketing could take place on public transport using an NFC (Near Field Communication) skimming device. The expert managed to read an NFC-enabled debit card’s information without the cardholder’s knowledge or consent, just by having his device close to the victim’s wallet.

Contactless Payment Card Theft: In 2017, a video circulated on social media that showed two thieves using a Point of Sale (POS) terminal to steal money through contactless payment. They approached people carrying bags or pockets that contained their contactless cards and touched the POS terminal to the bags, successfully withdrawing a small amount of money. Since contactless payment usually doesn’t require a PIN for transactions under a certain limit, the victims were unaware of the theft until they checked their account statements.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Skimming in Public Spaces: Electronic pickpocketing has famously been demonstrated in public spaces like shopping malls and crowded streets. Criminals can use an RFID skimming device to wirelessly read the information stored on RFID-enabled credit cards, passports, and ID cards. In these cases, the thieves discreetly place their device close to the victim’s wallet or bag, harvesting the data without any physical contact.

FAQ: Electronic Pickpocketing

What is electronic pickpocketing?

Electronic pickpocketing is a type of identity theft where criminals use wireless technology to steal personal and financial information stored on contactless credit cards, passports, and other RFID-enabled devices without physically touching the victim’s belongings.

How does electronic pickpocketing work?

Criminals use a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanner or smartphone app to intercept the radio waves emitted by contactless cards and RFID-enabled devices. They can then collect the encoded data, such as your name, card number, and expiration date, which can be used for fraudulent purchases or sold on the dark web.

What can I do to prevent electronic pickpocketing?

There are several ways to protect yourself from electronic pickpocketing:
1. Use an RFID-blocking wallet or card sleeve that shields your cards from unauthorized scans.
2. Keep your contactless cards and RFID-enabled devices separate from each other to minimize the amount of data available to thieves.
3. Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements for any fraudulent activity.

How common is electronic pickpocketing?

While the exact number of electronic pickpocketing incidents is difficult to track, this method of theft has become more common in recent years due to the increasing popularity of contactless payment methods and RFID-enabled devices. However, with greater awareness and protective measures, the risk of becoming a victim can be significantly reduced.

Can electronic pickpocketing be tracked or traced?

Tracing electronic pickpocketing can be challenging, as the criminals often use disposable scanners or smartphone apps, and the transactions may be completed online using the stolen data. However, law enforcement and financial institutions are constantly developing new methods to detect and combat electronic pickpocketing by monitoring patterns of suspicious activity.

Related Technology Terms

  • RFID Skimming
  • Contactless Payment Theft
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) Fraud
  • Card Cloning
  • Digital Wallet Security

Sources for More Information


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