What is an RFID-Blocking Wallet? and Which Should You Buy?
What is an RFID-Blocking Wallet? In the last few years, a whole RFID-blocking industry has sprung up, and it survives partly on confusion.As technology continues to progress, the conversation around data protection becomes increasingly important.
We know it’s important to not share our passwords and carefully manage account information, but did you know your sensitive information can be breached without your knowledge directly from your pocket in everyday places?
Luckily, there’s protection by way of “RFID wallets”, officially referred to as RFID blocking devices.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a short-distance electro-magnetic method for transmitting small bits of data.
It was initially used primarily for inventory tracking, but morphed into all sorts of uses, including authentication, passports, identification cards, and credit cards.
It’s the latter use that has driven a billion-dollar defense industry offering specially designed RFID-blocking accessories.
You can even buy RFID-blocking totes, fanny packs, and backpacks.
Understanding Radio Frequency Identification
Radio Frequency Identification is used in conjunction with a microchip, a powered antenna, and a scanner.
Although commercial uses for it were first developed in the 1970s, it has become more universally accessible in recent years.
With advancements to the technology used to read and store information, it is now more affordable to purchase and adapt.
Radio Frequency Identification works through a small electronic device, usually a microchip, that has information stored on it.
These devices are generally quite small, sometimes the size of a grain of rice, and can hold large amounts of data.
While they don’t always emit electricity, some can contain a stored power source or batteries. The scanners used to read these devices can also provide enough electricity to allow them to read the microchip.
There are many different uses for the technology, but it is commonly used in tracking products, animals, and currency.
How is Your Credit Card Information Getting Stolen?
An RFID-user’s greatest threat comes from individuals now known as “skimmers”.
They use devices called RFID scanners to pick up credit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes from passersby.
These scanners take advantage of traditional RFID technology, utilizing digital advancement for theft.
The term “skimmer” was coined from the extreme ease with which these individuals steal, simply by walking along next to a stranger on the street for a few moments.
Due to the electromagnetic field, no physical touch between the RFID scanner and your wallet is even needed!
The RFID skimmer criminals will be long gone before you even realize there’s an issue.
Once a skimmer has obtained the card information, it’s a relatively simple process to use it.
Using a card-magnetizing tool, the criminals can transfer the data onto a new card. The skimmer then has access to your accounts and can use the card within seconds.
These machines aren’t terribly difficult or expensive to obtain either.
Anyone who has the money to pay for a card reader or magnetizing tool can buy one, regardless of industry or intent.
A credit card reader can be purchased online for around $50 and the card-magnetizing tool for approximately $300.
The great ease with which RFID skimming is able to occur means it’s important to stay protected with an RFID blocking wallet.
You can use a myriad of materials that are poor conduct of electromagnetism to block RFID waves — just a few sheets of thick aluminum foil will do the trick.
The RFID-blocking vendors will try to overwhelm you with technical terms and specifications, including frequencies and antenna sizes.
Aluminum foil works to block them all; you just may need more foil sheets.
Do the “official” RFID wallets and other accessories work? Yes and no. Some have been shown to be less reliable than aluminum foil.
But even if the RFID blocking products did protect better than Reynolds Wrap™, the fact remains that in over a decade, not a single crime involving an RFID-enabled device has been reported in the public domain. I don’t just mean credit card crime.