It is probably every scammer's dream to steal your bank card PIN with something as simple as taking a picture. Scarily, this is actually a reality and has been for a couple years now. But wait, what?
Infrared technology has enabled a modified iPhone 5 or 5s cellphone case to analyse thermal activity on practically any surface.
Originally used for security, home repairs, and outdoor activities, 'FLIR One – Infrared Accessory' is able to pick up the heat activity on surfaces that have been vacant for over 15 minutes (depending on the surface conduction).
Brushed metal PIN pads, like the ones found at an ATM, have a high conductive quality and thus dissipate heat quite speedily. Rubber button PIN pads, however, like the ones found in supermarkets, restaurants, and retail stores, conserve thermal heat for a much longer period of time.
The infrared camera on the case is able to pick up thermal heat signatures, and translate them into dynamic and clear visuals that can even indicate the sequence the buttons were punched. This makes life a lot easier for a scammer, with an 80 percent chance of the scammer guessing your PIN code if the image was taken under a minute later.
"Who cares?" you say, "they don’t actually have my card and I have already left the shop, so how can this affect me?" Turns out, if a scammer has taken the time to buy the hefty infrared cover, valued at $350, they will most likely have access to a radio frequency identification scanner. This scanner is able to capture your card details up to one metre away.
How do I prevent this?
So before you give up swiping your card altogether, there are a few ways you can throw scammers off their tracks.
When using rubber PIN pads, or any PIN pad for that matter, rest your fingers on a few buttons while you are entering your PIN.
This will then show up on a thermal detector as all the buttons being punched at the same time, as they are all equally as heated (if you hold your fingers on the buttons for the entire process).
Take a look at design and science YouTuber, Mark Rober's video
as he takes you through just how easy it is to steal someone's PIN, especially when at the supermarket.