RFID-blocking-product ads mislead consumers

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Advertising by the manufacturers of products that block the radio-frequency identification (RFID) signal of certain cards from scammers, including sleeves and wallets, allows consumers to presume that the products are more useful than they actually are. (Consumers Digest found at least 80 such products in an online search.)

Because most people don’t have so-called contactless credit cards, which include an RFID chip, the blocking products are pointless for many consumers, according to Robert Siciliano, who is a personal-security expert. 

Claims that manufacturers of RFID-blocking products make include, “Slip your credit card into an RFID blocking sleeve, and no RF scanner will be able to read its information” and “[It’s] designed to protect personal information stored on credit cards, debit cards, smartcards, RFID driver’s licenses and any other RDIF cards… .” Some manufacturers use scare tactics, such as, “Identity thieves use RFID scans on people’s credit cards a lot. It is imperative more than ever that you protect your identity and credit card information.”

What these manufacturers don’t tell you is that their product doesn’t apply to, and isn’t necessary for, credit cards and debit cards that have a so-called EMV chip, which is the type of card that most people have.

“They’re scamming the public,” Siciliano says.

Beverly Harzog, who is a credit-card expert, says RFID-blocking-product manufacturers don’t explain the difference that exists between the two types of cards. 

“I think they’re trying to sell something by creating a problem that doesn’t really exist and putting that risk in consumers’ minds,” says Julie Conroy, who is a research director at Aite Group.

Siciliano says these products are marketed to financial institutions, including banks, for use as a promotional tool and giveaway.

—J. Schlabach