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Article: RFID: To Block, or Not To Block

RFID: To Block, or Not To Block

RFID: To Block, or Not To Block

Think you're safer with an RFID-blocking wallet? Think again.

These days, it seems like it's easier than ever to fall victim to identity theft. Hacking is ever-advancing, and it's hard to believe that a thief can electronically gather your information from several feet away—but it is technically possible.

That's why there are foil-lined pouches and lined wallets that block RFID-skimming from individual credit and debit cards. And while wrapping your cards in metal may technically be effective, the question is: Are these credit-card "foil hats" truly necessary?

Distil Union says NO to RFID blocking

TL;DR you don't need to worry about theft by RFID-skimming. More and more security experts agree that RFID-blocking relies on fear to sell you something under a false sense of security. After careful research, we agree:

Do I actually need to use an RFID blocker to protect my money? Roger A. Grimes, a data-driven defense evangelist, gave me a straight answer: Absolutely not. “In nearly two and half decades,” he says,” I've never found a single real-world crime that would have been prevented by an RFID blocker.”

Here are some helpful facts.

Your card may not have RFID.

That chip on your card? It is not RFID, it's an EMV chip. If your card doesn't have the words PayPass, PayWave or an icon that looks like a wifi signal, an RFID-blocking layer won't be blocking anything—and why pay more for an added layer that you don't need?

Image from via this post on how to manually opt out. You can also whack it with a hammer, apparently.

You're already protected.

Let's say a thief does "skim" your card. RFID sends only a one-time code, which nowadays is encrypted. If an older-model RFID card shares an unencrypted code, to a thief that means only one potential stolen transaction. The good news there is, most credit card companies do not hold customers accountable for payments made due to fraud. So, in this case, an RFID-blocker would prevent a transaction that you're already protected from.

There are better ways to protect yourself against theft.

The real threat to in-person card hacking is an ATM skimmer: Thieves place readers into an ATM or point-of-sale device, efficiently gathering data in large quantities. Unfortunately, a lined wallet won't protect you from this most popular form of theft.

While ATM-skimmers are an increasing problem that makes nearly everyone vulnerable to theft, there are a few precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim. The best part? All of the following fraud-prevention practices are free!

  1. When possible, make withdrawals or transactions only at ATMs in a bank lobby or directly from a bank teller.
  2. Look closely at the card reader on an ATM, and find a different one if it appears loose or noticeably different than before.
  3. Along with the skimming device itself, thieves plant a tiny camera nearby to pick up your pin number. Always use one hand to cover the hand that's typing in your pin.
  4. Use your credit card for transactions, because it's protected against fraud far better than your debit card. Better yet, use digital cards and skip handing over a physical card altogether!
  5. Carry your wallet in your front pocket, which is less exposed to pick-pocketing than your back pocket. 

The final verdict on RFID blocking

While hacking of RFID items is certainly within the realm of possibility, it’s just not a viable threat, especially not in comparison to other behaviors that can leave you at risk.

Letting your guard down just because your wallet his an RFID layer would be a mistake. All of this being said, if you like a wallet and it happens to have RFID-blocking, that's perfectly fine. And because we understand the value of peace of mind (the undisputed benefit of RFID-shielding), our we offer select wallets with exterior RFID shielding.

To continue providing access to NFC cards like work key-cards, subway and tap-and-go cards, we design most of our wallets with one or two quick-access card slots. This way you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with an RFID-shielded wallet, plus tap-and-go convenience without having to remove these commonly used cards from your wallet. Because for many, peace of mind is priceless.

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