Pickpockets don't actually have to pick your pockets anymore. Nowadays, we’ve all heard of RFID skimming right? It’s where thieves with RFID readers sneak up behind us and scan the credit card or passport in our pocket or bag to steal information. They can then clone your bank card with the information they stole and use it to make fraudulent transactions on your account. Yes you have become a victim of identity theft.
What exactly is RFID?
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a way of transmitting small pieces of data via radio waves. It was initially used for inventory tracking, but morphed into all sorts of uses, including authentification, passports, identification cards and credit cards. It was developed to make transactions quicker and easier because it allows scanners to pick up the information with less physical interaction.
What about RFID fraud?
Very soon after RFID-technologies were introduced, criminals started taking advantage of this new technology. It's known as RFID skimming and involves using a scanner that wirelessly scans the victim's payment card in the same way that a cash register scans it when making a contactless payment. These scanners are legal and can be bought in regular electronics stores. Most modern mobile phones running Android or IOS have a built in NCF reader that can be used to unlawfully scan contactless payment cards. A criminal can hide the scanner inside a glove or a bag, and then place himself close to the victim and wirelessly steal the victim's payment card information. With the wirelessly obtained payment card information, the criminal can use it to make fraudulent purchases online or clone your cards.
How can you prevent RFID skimming?
- RFID Blocking materials
There are several products you can buy which help to stop your cards being skimmed. There are RFID blocking sleeves, wallets and cards. The RFID blocking wallet and sleeves works by acting as a Faraday cage which creates a screen around your cards which stops electromagnetic fields interacting with the cards. The RFID blocking cards are the same shape and size as a regular credit card and placed together with the cards it should protect. It contains a jamming device that is activated automatically when someone tries to scan the payment cards in its proximity.
- Permanent disabling of RFID functionality
RFID functionality can be disabled permanently by cutting internal wires within the contactless chip. Cutting requires locating the internal wires, followed by cutting, drilling, or heating them. Methods that visibly damage the card may lead to it being rejected as payment method when presented to a retailer. If you aren’t an electronics engineer some banks now allow you to disable this functionality using your online bank account.
Aluminium foil - the myth
It has been reported that simply wrapping your RFID enabled contactless cards in ormance of the card being read, which is why people assume it works generally. But regular aluminum foil (kitchen foil) or EMC static bags have no specific ability to block RFID. They are not designed to do this and RFID blocking is simply not one of the natural characteristics of aluminum.
Is a RFID blocking sleeve really necessary?
RFID blocking sleeves are made from a special aluminum composite material that can block / interrupt radio waves. There is no way even the most tech-savvy thieves can steal your data using credit card protector sleeves, one of the simplest and cheapest forms of protection. With the rise in RFID skimming, many consumers are leaning towards the side of caution and using card blocking sleeves so that they can continue using existing wallets and purses. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry.