A psychic who can read your personal financial information? It seems like the plot from the latest fantasy film, but there is such a thing as wireless identity theft, and it’s been popping up a lot in the news lately. These tech-thieves can “see” into your wallet or purse, then “read” all your important credit card or personal information from a distance without you even knowing about it.
Fortunately, there is a solution, and it comes in a very fashionable form.
First, some background. If you have a credit card, passport or any kind of identification with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip in it, this could happen to you. These chips allow everyday folks like yourself to skip using the magnetic strip on the back of the card while still using that card to quickly make a purchase– such as when you swipe your gas card over a section of the gas pump in order to charge it and start pumping gas. In the case of passports or IDs, no purchase takes place but personal information is exchanged.
When one swipes the card, ID or passport over a reader, the chip inside responds to a specific radio frequency and data is transferred; in the case of a purchase, your credit card info goes into the store computer and your account is charged the appropriate amount.
However, here’s where things can get dicey. Say you go to some public space–grocery store, airport, movie theater–and someone nearby has a reader in a backpack, shopping bag, or purse. That device sends out a radio wave, your card responds and gets “tagged,” and that response “can contain encoded personal identifying information, including the card holder’s name, address, Social Security Number, phone number, and pertinent account or employee information.” (Source)
While some experts argue that the person stealing the data must be fairly close in order to make it happen, there’s no hard and fast data on what that proximity is. According to SecurityManagement.com, there are no uniform symbols to let a user know if he has one of these RFID cards, so most people don’t know if they have one or not. Additionally, the chip can’t be turned off, and since so many people carry cards rather than cash they can all be easy targets.
Fortunately, all is not lost. A few companies have created RFID-blocking wallets and passport covers that can block the radio signal and keep your personal information from being stolen. You’ll certainly want to research them on your own to make sure they look, feel, and work the way you like, but if these wallets are a simple solution to protecting your financial identity then they’re a great investment.
Travelon Women’s RFID Clutch Wallet– $19
Designed for travel use, it comes in brown or olive, features two slots that allow you to organize different currencies, 12 card slots, 2 bill slots, an ID window and a zippered change pocket. Measures 9.27 x 4.62 x 0.69, from Overstock.com.
Ogon RFID Aluminum Wallet – $39.00
Light-weight, sleek and sexy, it includes seven expandable pockets for cards or cash, a simple click opening, and measures 4.5″ x 3.7″ x .67″. Find it on ebags.com.
Stainless Steel Ultra Thin Bi-Fold Wallet – $19.99
Looks like a traditional wallet but with stainless steel that feels like silk and is super thin. It has three credit card slots, two internal pockets, an ID window, and one large pocket for bills. Find it on NewEgg.com.
Stewart/Stand Passport Holders, Wallets and Billfolds –
$41.80 – $90
These colorful stainless steel wallets were such a hit with Oprah Winfrey that she added them to her “O” list in Oprah Magazine. There are multiple colors and styles, from bright or pale hues that all accent the stainless steel. Not into color? All styles are also available in our traditional black or grey. They’re also made with 85%+ post consumer recycled stainless steel. Check them all out at StewartStand.com.