What is RFID Skimming and How Can I Protect Myself?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) skimming is a criminal activity method that uses radio-frequency magnetic fields to unlawfully track people, vehicles, and acquire payment card information without the need of being in direct contact. Statistics from 2016 demonstrate the drastic increase of these “digital pickpocketing” acts, as almost all newer credit and debit cards utilize contact-free payment options. According to Tripwire, in 2016 there were 2 million more RFID skimming victims than in 2015, with $16 billion total being stolen through skimming.

Here are a few things you need to know about RFID skimming and how you can keep your information safe.

Why is falling victim to RFID skimming so easy?

A major reason is the fact that owning card reading machines are both legal to own and easy to purchase on Ecommerce websites. There are also card reading applications that one can purchase for their mobile device and can be used for RFID skimming. In addition, many people put their wallets or payment cards in their back pockets, making them easily susceptible to be identified by a digital pickpocketer. Several RFID readers only have to be within a few inches to successfully gain access to a person’s information, especially in congested cities where people often walk to work or are surrounded by large crowds. To segue on this topic, there are certain places RFID skimmers like to take advantage of due to the nature of the high traffic areas. Settings such as different means of public transportation as well as ATM machines, gas pumps, retail shops, and restaurants seem to be easier targets for RFID skimmers to gain access to other people’s information and payment methods.

How to avoid RFID Skimming

Here are some different ideas to keep in mind to help prevent RFID skimming from happening to you. Consider purchasing a wallet that is “RFID skimming proof.” You can find these at most major retail stores as well as online. These wallets are designed to prevent transmission signals from RFID readers, making it difficult to steal payment and other personal information. If transmission signals are not being identified from your wallet, criminals are less likely to gain access to your information.

Looking for a cheaper alternative that you may already have in your house? Red construction paper may another viable option. According to some technology specialists, such as YouTuber ThioJoe, there has been research that shows that wrapping specifically red construction paper around your payment cards can significantly reduce RFID signals and transmission waves. Aluminum foil has also been said to help reduce these signals, but technological advances in RFID readers are making it easier to infiltrate through this household item. While red construction paper may not completely block transmission signals from your wallet, it significantly reduces them.

Some other practical tips you can do is put your wallet in your front pocket and place all your debit and credit cards in one location in your wallet. Having your cards in one location mixes up signals from being transmitted and placing your wallet in your front pocket decreases the likelihood that a pickpocketer will gain access to your payment information.

We hope you found this information helpful, and your trusted security experts here at Laura’s Locksmith and Security encourage you to try out these tips to ensure the protection of your valuable information.