RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification Devices. Today they are found in passports and credit cards as wafer-thin chips to help speed up transactions. They store and transmit your account information plus personal details. So where does RFID blocking come in?
Handheld scanners (which thieves can easily come by) can read these chips through wallets and clothing up to several feet away. Think of it as electronic pickpocketing or identity theft. Newly issued credit cards, passports, and other IDs have embedded RFID chips.
Identity theft via RFID readers is growing. You can protect your personal data with the use of RFID blocking wallets and RFID blocking passport covers. These items contain a metal fibre mesh that makes a “cage” around the chip that radio waves cannot penetrate.
Credit and identification cards now have RFID technology embedded into them. Most newly issued Passports have RFID chips in them. The chip contains all the data that is on the first page of your passport including your photo. Even your driver’s license can have an RFID chip.
How does RFID work?
RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, is the technology that lets you simply wave your credit or identification card, passport or license in front of a nearby scanner instead of having to slide the magnetic stripe through it. The electronic scanner sends a signal which is received by an antenna embedded into the card, which is connected to the card’s RFID chip, thus activating it. Unfortunately, criminals with minimal technical skills can construct their own RFID readers with a few simple supplies.
These devices can steal your private financial information quickly and silently, all the perpetrator needs to do is come near your wallet with the hidden card reader. You wouldn’t know it at all.
Does my card have an RFID chip?
If your card is equipped with PayWave or blink, indicated by a logo on the front or back of the card, then it has an RFID chip embedded in it. The absence of a PayPass logo, however, does not mean that your card does not have an RFID chip—call the customer service number on the back of your card to verify if your card is RFID chipped.
If you cannot get an answer from your bank you should protect your cards anyway to ensure that you do not fall victim to identity theft. Imagine how the theft of your identity while travelling could negatively impact your trip! You should be concerned if you carry an American Express Card, Visa, Discover, MasterCard or a passport.
Will the RFID material wear out?
No, it is designed to last for years of use.
Can an RFID signal go through things like leather, vinyl, and clothing?
Yes, that is exactly why the RFID shield is a smart security precaution.
How far away can a smart credit card embed with an RFID chip be read?
Up to 10 ft is the most common range.
Who is most vulnerable to this type of ID theft?
Travellers and people who live in urban areas and frequent public places like coffee shops, airports or commuter trains, are at the greatest risk for falling victim to theft by RFID scanner.