Do Credit Card Protectors Work?
Have you seen RFID blocking sleeves, wallets, and other devices that claim they protect against RFID skimming? You might think that you are fully protected, but that’s not exactly the case.
The truth is this: these products do what they are supposed to, but RFID skimming almost never, ever happens, so it’s likely to be a waste of money to buy these.
What Is RFID Exactly?
RFID, or radio frequency identification, is way of transmitting small pieces of data through electro-magnetic means. It was created for inventory tracking but has since evolved into other uses including in passports, credit cards, ID cards, and more. When it comes to credit cards, the RFID blocking industry has grown to be worth more than a billion dollars. But for what?
There are millions and millions of RFID-enabled credit cards out there, but it’s estimated that less than five percent of the credit cards in the U.S. are enabled with RFID. Cards with this technology are much more popular overseas. If your card has a “chip”, you know, the new chip displayed on your card, that is NOT RFID, but the ads that companies display discussing card protectors specifically magnify the “chip”, which has NOTHING to do with what they may protect.
Credit cards enabled with RFID can actually transmit personal information from itself to an RFID reader that is only a couple of inches away. However, there are other ways to pay wirelessly, such as Apple Pay, which uses another type of technology. RFID is actually quite dangerous and it’s a target for hackers since in some cases, the information is not encrypted. So, it would be very easy for someone with knowledge to read this information.
Security and RFID
Soon after RFID came out, hackers figured out they could get information from these products. Known as RFID skimming, they can usually take an RFID reader and simply read other devices that are transmitting RFID information. Generally the reading needs to be done in close proximity, like when the reader is placed in a backpack, the hacker then brushes up against you.
Soon, RFID-enabled credit cards began to become more popular, too, and researchers realized that it could be remarkably easy for hackers to get this information. In fact, many people learned how to do this right from home and by watching videos online.
These videos, however, shared the worst-case scenarios, and they scared a lot of people. For instance, they might show one of the bad guys sitting on a busy street corner with a handheld device just pulling credit card information out of thin air. Things got so scary thanks to these videos that some countries even started protecting citizen’s passports with RFID-blocking technology.
There are a number of materials that can technically block the waves from RFID-enabled cards. In fact, if you have a couple of pieces of aluminum foil, you can do it yourself. Those who sell RFID-blocking devices will definitely try to scare you with stories, and they will probably also use a lot of technical information and specs to push their products. This isn’t to say that RFID-products don’t work…many work just fine, but there are also several that are just as reliable as some aluminum foil.
Now, here’s the real kicker: even if you want to invest in these products, you should ask yourself: why are you doing it? In more than a decade, there has not been any crime committed using an RFID-enabled device. None…zero…zilch.
During that time, however, millions and millions of credit cards have been stolen, and there have been billions of other financial crimes. However, there has never been an RFID-related crime. Does this mean it can’t be done? No, it can be. But, just because something CAN be done doesn’t mean it actually IS done…and so far, these crimes are literally non-existent.
Experts have been making the same claim for many years. Really, they’ve been saying that RFID-blocking wallets and other accessories are unnecessary for just as long as these items have been on the market. You can find hundreds of articles, you can seek out dozens of interviews, and even see how people who sell RFID-blocking products try to counteract this information with nonsense. But, not a single one of them have ever been able to prove with concrete evidence that this crime has ever happened!
So, the next time you see a device with RFID-blocking technology, what are you going to do? My advice? Buy a roll of Reynold’s Aluminum Foil Wrap and put it on your head.