As you use your credit or debit card hundreds of times this holiday season, it sure would be be nice to have some extra protection against theft.
So we wanted to know if one product that promises protection from hackers is really worth considering.
Maureen Tierney recently walked into Bed, Bath and Beyond and picked up a bunch of stocking stuffers she figured her family would love: credit card protective sleeves. They are hot sellers on Amazon right now.
“It’s a product that’s supposed to protect your credit card from identity theft. It has a special metal blocking aluminum alloy,” she said.
Claim to block RFID snooping
The product is an RFID blocking credit card sleeve.
You may have seen internet posts about how someone can rub up against you in a busy store, and capture your credit card number with an RFID reader, if you have a card with an RFID chip.
But Tierney wonders if these sleeves really does anything.
“It looks like just aluminum foil on the inside,” she said, “and I thought, well I don’t know about this!”
The idea behind these credit card protectors is simple. Your credit card inside a leather wallet has no protection against a radio frequency card reader, in the event someone next to you in line has one.
Do you need it?
So should we all have this protection?
We went to an internet security expert, Apolonio Garcia of HealthGuard Security, to find out if these little foil sleeves are a good idea.
“Possibly yes, but probable, no,” he said.
Garcia explained further, saying they do exactly what they promise, which is to block RF (radio frequency) waves.
But he says in most cases you don’t need this type of protection.
Why not? Because that little chip or magnetic strip in most cards is not an RF chip. It can’t be read by proximity, or you would never have to insert or swipe it in a card reader.
“The number of credit cards that have RF capability is infinitely small, less than 1 percent,” Garcia said.
An RF card, Garcia explained, has what looks like a wi-fi signal on it —new style hotel keys are one example—and could be vulnerable if someone really wanted to clone your hotel room key.
But he says this is like protection from a meteor hitting your house. It could happen, but probably won’t.
However, he says they may be worth buying for your US Passport, which now are embedded with RFID chips, unlike your credit card.
So do they make good stocking stuffers? Sure. But many security experts say unless you are carrying your passport, it’s doubtful you’ll ever be hacked this way.
Good information to know, so you don’t waste your money.