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Credit Card Info Can Be Stolen As You Walk Down the Street: How to Protect Yourself

Identity theft has become shockingly easy with RFID, which is becoming near-ubiquitous. Here’s how it’s done—and how you can protect yourself.

by Heidi Stevenson

Credit cards are often supplied with RFID (radio frequency identification design) chips embedded. They make it more convenient, and presumably more secure, to purchase goods. However, they’re also more convenient for thieves, who can literally steal your card information while walking by—without even touching you!

They can be read when they’re out of sight. They can be read when in pockets and purses. They can be read from several feet away. If your credit card has an RFID chip, you’re at risk of losing data that has the potential of allowing thieves to make purchases or even to commit identity theft.

RFID chips are becoming ubiquitous. Toll systems put them on the cards used to pass through. Key cards that have replaced room keys may contain RFID chips. Of greatest concern are passports and drivers licenses. In the US and UK, passports have contained RFID chips since 2006, and those chips may contain very personal identification data, the sort that, if stolen, could easily result in identity theft.

The crook who gets into this “business” has entered a lucrative field. The cost of equipment is minimal, and the word difficult doesn’t even come into play to apply it.

How to Protect Yourself from RFID Theft

Okay, you’ve seen the bad news. However, now that you’ve been forewarned, it’s quite easy to protect yourself. There are two methods that can be used.

The first is to purchase RFID protection sleeves to slip over the RFID devices. That’s the stylish approach. They tend to come with interesting designs on them to satisfy your fashion sense or let you make a personal statement. It works, but you must pay for it.

The second method isn’t elegant, but it works. Aluminum foil stops RFID signals. As a rule of thumb, a double layer of standard aluminum foil wrapped over your cards and devices will prevent theft of data on RFID devices. All you need to do with a credit card is measure out a length of foil four times the height of your card and exactly the width. Fold it in half, and then fold it in half again, as shown in the top image to the left. Simply insert your card inside, and it’s protected from peeping scanners.

Alternatively, after the first fold, you may open it up and then fold the outside edges to the inside, instead of simply doubling, as shown in the bottom image to the left. That will result in having no loose edges, and also prevents inserting the card so that it’s protected by three layers of foil on one side and only one layer on the other.

The same approach will protect any and all your RFID-chipped products. Simply encase them in a double-layer of ordinary aluminum foil.

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