Technology continues to move at a rapid pace. With plenty of leaps forward, there is always an opportunity to exploit technologies that otherwise are extremely useful. Protecting your information and financial assets is always important, especially with new advancements.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that isn’t exactly new, but it is now being used in ways that interact with our private data. Some credit card companies have embedded RFID chips in their credit cards and beginning in 2007 the U.S. Government put RFID chips in passports. While there are very good reasons for embracing RFID, there are some downsides. Let's dig in a little deeper.
WHAT IS RFID?
RFID is pretty straightforward. You have a chip, a scanner and a computer for storing the data. The scanner reads the chip and stores the data on a device. You’ve seen RFID before but probably never noticed it. It is used in a lot of applications:
- Supply chain management
- Retail tags/inventory
It is a highly efficient way of tracking information. There are even injectable RFID tags for keeping important medical information in case of an emergency.
RFID is now available in a variety of credit cards. The chip is placed in the card. You can ask your credit card company if you are unsure, but most RFID credit cards have the wireless symbol indicating you can use it without swiping or inserting the chip. At the point of sale, you can simply wave your card over the reader. It’s a way of paying wirelessly. It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s not 100% secure.
HOW IS MY INFORMATION STOLEN?
The same way the credit card machine wirelessly reads the information of the chip, a handheld scanner can do the same thing. Now before you tear up your cards, know that it has to scan within inches. In order for someone to actually read your card or passport, they have to be very close to the chip itself.
Typically this happens in crowded areas: airports, malls, train stations, tourist destinations and so on. If someone can “bump” into you in a crowded area long enough, they could potentially scan your wallet or purse. This can sound scary at first, but it’s not as alarming as it may seem. There are a few simple measures you can take to make sure your card information is secure.
HOW DO I PROTECT FROM RFID SCANNERS?
Here are three simple steps you can take to ease your mind when it comes to protecting your information:
- Find out if you even have RFID credit cards. If you aren’t carrying any RFID cards then you have nothing to worry about. If you are unsure you can contact your credit card company and they will let you know. Some common cards with RFID include Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass, American Express ExpressPay and Discover Zip.
- Keep your cards and passport in a hard to access place. I don’t mean locked in a safe at home. If you carry a front pocket wallet it will be harder for a nefarious character to scan the front of your jeans. If you have a purse or bag, don't place your cards in the outermost pockets. If they put the scanner up to the bag they’ll have a harder time reading the card if it is out of reach. While not fail safe, this will help protect you.
- Use RFID blocking accessories. Because of the nature of RFID and it’s reliance on clear radio waves, it fails when it cannot read the signal. There are materials available that block radio waves, thus blocking an unwanted scanner from accessing the information. There are countless options available when it comes to buying wallets, purses, bags and passport cases that have RFID blocking materials built into the product keeping the contents secure.
I CARRY RFID CARDS, WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
Depending on your needs, preferences, and style we have several options that will work you. For a full list of our RFID blocking products, you can shop here. Below are a few choice options for you to consider.[gallery size="medium" columns="2" ids="267,269,273,274"]
Is RFID convenient? Yes. Is RFID extremely unsafe? No. Does RFID need to be taken seriously and treated with care? Yes. Don’t fall into excessive worry if you do carry RFID enabled cards or a passport. There are simple measures you can take and products you can use to mitigate any of the risks. I hope that helps you and answers some questions. Thanks for reading!