RFID stands for Radio-frequency identification. RFID technology is used in a myriad of industries ranging from animal identification to telemetry. The fundamental technology is the matching of a transmitted signal between two tags in order to identify or transmit communication or data. For the purpose of TORRO and the products we design, it is focused on the protection of the ‘tags’ in your credit cards in order to protect against unauthorised skimming ‘payments taken from your card without you realising’. As a consequence, the answer to the second question is YES, it is something to worry about. Do not worry however, with the correct precaution it can be avoided.
The Rise of Contactless Payments
In the UK, contactless payments are now the ‘norm’ and widely accepted, very convenient, quick and particularly useful. Coming home with a pocket full of coins is now a thing of the past ‘if you’re old enough to remember this phenomenon’. A quick tap and that is a round purchased or a coffee, shopping, travel ticket... easy. Even better is mobile payment, you don’t even need to carry your card. It doesn’t even matter if you are in the middle of nowhere without signal the ‘tag’ is embedded into the software of your device ready to be called upon to make the purchase.
As with any technological development which very clever people work extremely hard to make our lives easier, there is an equally unscrupulous clever person figuring out a way to perform a trick to use the technology in the form of a scam. RFID scams are still extremely rare and not often reported. The media have referred to a rise in car key RFID data being intercepted by criminals and used in auto-theft. As the car has the RFID ‘tag’ for keyless entry and start / stop technology, if the tag is digitally copied it can be cloned onto a dummy chip. This is a very rare crime which has an extremely low report rate but obviously piques the interest of motorists thus a commonly reported on piece of news.
Card 'Skimming' and How to Combat It
An easier and more common scam is the skimming of payment cards. A criminal can easily arm themselves with a wireless contactless card reader on a wifi hotspot and in any public place set up a payment on the reader for a sub £30 value and simply tap a pocket or bag of an individual hoping a card is within a couple of centimetres which is contactless enabled and that tap will charge the card for the amount transmitted by the ‘tag’ on the reader. A criminal with a couple of hours to kill at a pop concert or sporting event could easily tap the rear pockets of thousands of unsuspecting, distracted event goers within a matter of hours.
At TORRO we successfully tested the theory with our chip and pin device and easily managed to charge a payment card in a rear pocket in a wallet ‘as an experiment with a member of our team who was instantly refunded’. As a brand founded by two ex-Police detectives many years ago, solving this problem was an issue close to everything we believe in. At TORRO we always say that the ‘difference is in the detail’ and this is one detail we were keen to add to our range of Bifold wallets.
The TORRO Bi-fold wallet was designed to be extremely compact and slim whilst able to accommodate 5 bank cards and bank notes without adding excessive bulk. To combat card ‘skimming’ we added a mesh to the outer lining which blocks RFID, meaning any radio signal from a tag attempting to communicate a payment request to a tag on a contactless card would be blocked and not make it to your card thus blocking the payment.
We then considered adding this same technology to phone covers, however, this is not necessary to block mobile pay devices on Apple or Android pay as these payment records require a FaceTime recognition, password or fingerprint ID authorisation before the communication can be completed.
An eye for detail will notice our slim card holders do not have RFID blocking. This was also a design led detail. The majority of customers who use the card holder reported that it’s primary function was to keep cash, business cards and travel tickets. We found that due to the ‘contactless’ nature of travel passes such as oyster cards, it was more convenient to tap the card holder rather than frantically try to retrieve the travel ticket. The RFID works the same way and allows quick and easy travel payment.
Whether it is the security of your credit cards or the convenience of quick and easy travel, the TORRO design team have a stylish solution for you all made with genuine leather.
We have now included RFID blocking technology in more of our premium leather accessories.