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Question DetailsAsked on 9/29/2011

Will a layer of aluminum foil lining a wallet protect credit cards from theft of information by an RFID reader? Want to advise friends too.

I've seen on TV and read articles in print media that say there is a device that can read all data recorded digitally on your credit cards (in some states even on a driver's license, which gives home address). I have even seen ads for steel wallets to contain these items in order to prevent someone standing a few feet away to record your data right thru a purse or wallet. Don't want to spend $10 on a gimmick if I don't need to, nor give up the handy wallet I already have which perfectly organizes items I need regularly. I also carry a bunch of cards in a separate pack, rubberbanded, which are just bonus or rewards type cards, which I think don't contain any account info. Wondering if having multiple signals together like that will foil the electronic reading devices, or do they need to be wrapped or put into something else? I used to carry the extra debit & credit cards,& store charge cards that I do not use frequently the same way, but have just moved them to a metal Altoids box.

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6 Answers

Voted Best Answer
12
Votes

Some of the new credit cards have RFID readable chips embeddded in the card that can be read by someone passing a reader within a few inches of your card - say while you are standing in line. Tinfoil may or may not work, depending on the frerquency used for the card. Best bet is to buy sliop covers specifically designed to block RFID reading - Amazon has a set of 10 for (as I remember) about $20 or so. If you travel, you might also think about a passport slip case, because the new passport have RFID biometric and ID data embedded in them - takes a different size and type of cover, because frequency is different.

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

4
Votes

Interesting question. I did a little digging, and it seems the cards you need to worry about being picked up by an RFID reader are the ones that you "tap" instead of "swipe," like a Mobile Speedpass or newer credit cards. Your card validation code--the three-digit code on the back--is not included in the information on the chip, neither is your PIN number, so any transactions requiring either of those numbers would be impossible for someone stealing your information. And some of the newest cards don't encode the name of the cardholder, making it even harder for someone stealing information to use that information.

From research, aluminum foil should be fine for making a sleeve for your cards. I'm not an expert on this subject, so I'd be more than happy to have some professionals chime in on the discussion.

Answered 3 years ago by Cas

6
Votes

It is true that someone with a special scanner can read your RFID enabled-credit card. However, most hackers will not waste their time stealing credit-card information one card at a time. For just a little more effort, they can hack into a merchant's database and steal thousands of customers' card numbers and related info. (Cold comfort, I suppose.....) If you're still worried that you'll run into the one guy who likes sitting with a device that will read your RFID card, you can line your wallet with thin aluminum foil.

And to help reduce the risk even more, I like Nana's advice about credit cards one uses infrequently -- keep them at home (Altoids box optional).

Mark Schleisner
Director, nycComputerGuy
mark@nycComputerGuy.com

Answered 3 years ago by Mark

12
Votes

It is true about the RFID chips. Credit card companies are putting them in all the new credit cards they send you. HOWEVER, all you have to do is call the Customer Service Phone Number on the back of your card and request a regular plain card without the RFID chip and they will send you one. Had all of mine replaced so no worries.

Answered 1 year ago by Guest_9823825

4
Votes

Many retailers (Amazon included) are now selling RFID guard technology imbedded in billfolds and wallets. Travelsmith.com sells wallets and billfolds that accommodate a passport.

I purchased a Mundi RFID anti-theft wallet this past summer, AND put my cards in a protective sleeve, but the reader that said you can request the chip not be in your credit card by calling the card issuer is yet another protective layer. The foil lining in the wallet or billfold just does not hold up nor is it easy to "make a sleeve" with foil. Even the heavy duty foil does not hold up to daily use.

Answered 11 months ago by Guest_9911086

5
Votes

This is strictly about the US Passport. If you take a look at your passport you ma notice that it is a little thicker and stiffer than they used to be. This is because the passport has and RFID protection layer built into it. If you will check the State Department website and read it carefully you will see that this was done specifically to protect your passport. In addition, the data on the passport is encrypted and protected to avoid the data being useful if it is read.


The biggest exposure for passport holders is theft rather than RFID reading.

See the State Department Passport FAQs at http://travel.state.gov/content/passp... for mor information.

Source: http://travel.state.gov/content/passp...

Answered 5 months ago by Guest_9156317

2
Votes

Aluminum is a poor choice for electrical shielding against radio frequencies. For those old enough to remember, people attached aluminum foil to TV antennas to improve reception. Not only can aluminum act as a frequency collector, under certain conditions it will behave as a directional antenna (much like your satellite dish mounted on your house) such that you are amplifying the signal in a particular direction. From a physics standpoint, the best materials for insulating against radio waves are lead (#1), copper (#2), and tin (#3). High grade stainless steel and cast iron also perform well when they are thick enough, but who wants to carry a hundred pound wallet? Despite being the best insulator, lead is toxic, which leaves copper and tin. True "tin foil" is not easily sourced leaving just copper. A thin film of copper (1 or 2 mils thick - a mil equaling one-thousandth of an inch, or about the thickness of a plastic trash bag) will do the trick although a copper mesh (like a porch screen) is even better. The beauty of copper is that it will disperse magnetism as well as radio waves thus protecting your card's magnetic stripe from being altered or wiped. Note that both sides of the card must be insulated to provide protection and that lining your wallet leaving the inside uncovered may actually enhance the readability of the RFID or magnetic stripe since the insulator will "trap" the signal inside until it reflects out. The absolute best protection is to have the RFID disabled (American Express will do this, other credit issuers I am unsure of.) The previous answer suggesting a slip-cover is the most practical as long as such a slip cover uses copper or true tin foil; however, there is a down side. The copper protecting your card will reflect any incoming signal onto anything else in your wallet, the implication being all cards with a magnetic stripe or RFID should be insulated.

Answered 2 months ago by gumpacina




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