Recently, the Guardian’s financial readers raised a question: I have seen wallets that claim they can prevent your contactless cards being scanned without you realising it. Should I buy one that offers such RFID blocking? Has anyone actually suffered from their contactless card being “skimmed”, or is it just scaremongering nonsense?
The RFID chip makes life easier by transmitting radio signals for quick identification. This technology helps track livestock and stocks. It makes automatic payments and quick scans of passports on toll roads possible, and since 2004, we have used some credit cards for contactless payments.
“Anyone with a reader can try and surreptitiously gather data from them,” said Walt Augustinowicz.
Computer security expert Roger Grimes said that in other countries, the proportion of contactless credit cards is much higher. However, he said, you may not need to buy an RFID-blocking wallet.
He said: “There’s probably hundreds of millions of financial crimes being done every year and so far zero, real life RFID crime.”
Grimes said it is almost impossible to track RFID crimes – it’s hard to know how someone’s information was stolen. But the reason he said it is unlikely to happen is simple: the thief does not want to waste time.
According to Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, from a consumer perspective, deciding whether to invest in RFID-blocking technology is entirely about assessing risk. In the next few years, there is no doubt that there will be more such credit cards on the market. But for now, Velasquez is most concerned about other ways in which thieves steal personal information.
“Things like telephone scams,” she said. You can pretend that you are your bank or the IRS and ask someone for this information, there are many ways. So, Velasquez said that if you buy a new wallet in the market and decide to buy one with RFID protection, it won’t hurt. But she encourages people to pay attention to some basic things, such as good password management and checking your credit report.
If you are worried about electronic pickpockets but don’t want to spend too much money, you can make your own blocking wallet or wrap your card or passport in a thick piece of aluminum foil. According to Consumer Reports, this product is as good as most RFID protectors on the market.