Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

Credit Card & Passport Holders Block RFID Snooping

U.S. and most other nations’ passports have microchips embedded in them. U.S. credit cards are starting to carry them as well. Some driver’s licenses now have embedded microhips as well. As a result, your financial and personal information is easily stolen by a stealthy form of pickpocketing.

Using a Vivotech RFID credit card reader or a similar device, available on eBay for about $50, a thief can read a credit card’s number and expiration date, along with the one-time CVV number used by contactless cards to authenticate payments. The thief doen’t need to touch the card as the process is wireless. The thief can obtain your credit card numbers simply by briefly walking near you while the card remains in your pocket or purse.

Then, using a card-magnetizing tool to encode that data onto a blank card, the thief can later create an electronic copy of your credit card, hand it to a clerk in a store, and make charges directly to your account. Passports can be forged by using similar techniques.

And now how to solve those problems? The easiest way is to kill your card’s RFID chip by frying it in the microwave. It only requires about three seconds to destroy the microchip. However, that also makes the card somewhat limited. It will still work in the common mag-strip credit card terminals in widespread use in North America today but it will not work in the new devices that simply require the user to hold the card near the credit card reader.

NOTE: The older mag-strip devices have already been used to illegally duplicate credit cards by other methods so regressing back to the older machines won’t solve any problems.

Destroying the microchip in a passport is almost guaranteed to significantly delay your entry into the United States as well as into many other countries on your next trip. For a variety reasons, you probably don’t want to destroy the micro-chip.

A more practical method is to obtain one of the numerous gadgets that claim to block RFID signals. By inserting your credit card and passport into one of these gadgets, your private information is locked up in a Faraday Cage, a device that blocks radio waves used in RFID technology and in many other uses as well. You can read more about Faraday Cages in Wikipedia at

One of the lower-cost and almost unobtrusive RFID blockers is called “1st in Service,” manufactured by a company called Number 1 In Service. The RFID shields are thin sleeves that fit over credit cards and passports, taking up almost no extra space in the pocket or purse. The manufacturer claims the shields are FIPS 201 Approved by the US Government as an Electromagnetically Opaque Shield.

A set of ten credit card sleeves and two passport sleeves are available from Amazon for $13.95 at and probably from numerous other retailers as well.

Categories: Credit Cards

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