With the shift of contactless credit cards and smart passports, there has been a rise in concern about RFID theft. The idea is that people can use remote scanners to lift the information on your cards and either use it to generate fake payments or use your personal info for other scams. But is RFID theft really a problem? And, do you need RFID protection? This post looks at the realities of RFID theft. There are also practical ways you might protect your personal details if you need to.

First, what is RFID?

In short, RFID chips embedded in various cards and passports contain information that is conveyed via radio waves. It makes for quicker transactions or transits because it allows scanners to pick up the information with less physical interaction. Here’s a short video that explains it in more detail.

Is RFID theft a real problem?

The overall chances of RFID theft are pretty low, just as theft via pickpockets. However, the risk can depend on what area you’re in and what you’re carrying. Residents of the USA are less likely to be targets of RFID theft than places like Europe. This is because there are simply less RFID credit cards in America. However, use of chip cards in the USA is rising. So if that’s where you live it’s worth checking if you have this tech in your card. More on this later.

If you’re traveling, any new smart passport does have ID information stored in there on an RFID chip. If you’d prefer to keep that under wraps, then it may be worth considering an RFID blocking travel wallet.

Here are some stats on RFID and ID theft if you’re interested.

Do you have an RFID credit card?

The easiest way to see if you have an RFID chip in your card is to see if there’s an RFID symbol on there. It looks like the icon below. A lot of new chip credit cards use what’s called either NFD or EMV chips. This is slightly different. They have extra security like unique transaction code signals and a pin or signature for larger transactions. They also need to be much closer to scanners to be read. So, skimming theft risk is much lower again. RFID sleeves and wallets still block any signals from these cards. So, in the unlikely event someone gets so close they can read your card, you’ll still have protection.

The ‘contactless card’ RFID symbol


So, do you need RFID protection?

The real answer to this is it depends. If you don’t have an RFID credit card, you still may have RFID in a MetroCard, work ID, or smart passport. Whether you want to protect the information on these is your call.

If you’re at low risk, or simply don’t use anything that has RFID in it, then you probably don’t need RFID protection.

For low-risk people that still have cards, passports, or ID you’d prefer to keep under wraps, then investing in some protection could be worth that extra peace of mind to know you’re covered.

If you travel a lot and want to make sure your personal information in your passport is secure, then it’s well worth getting a passport wallet with blocking technology built in.

RFID protection options

Depending on what you want to protect, there are lots of different options out there.

If you’re protecting mostly credit cards and you don’t need a new wallet, then basic RFID sleeves are great, fit into most regular wallets, and are nice and cheap.

For cards and ID when buying a new wallet, getting a wallet with RFID shielding technology built in.

If it’s just a passport you want to protect, then there are sleeves and wallets out there specifically for travel.

So in short, the risks are low. But if you’d prefer to concentrate on locking in your best moments, instead of thinking about whether you’re entering a situation where RFID theft is possible, then some investment in RFID protection could be a wise choice. As always, Safe Travels.

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