While contactless payment technology can make purchasing quick and convenient, some worry that it opens a new avenue for thieves to capture sensitive information. Seizing on an opportunity to allay consumer fears, companies have begun selling products that aim to keep that information secure.
One company, DIFRwear, has developed a full-line of wallets and cases for passports which it guarantees will shield radio-frequency identification, or RFID, signals from potential over-the-air data snooping.
Most of the major credit-card companies have been using RFID technology for years for consumers to pay for stuff they buy with just a wave of a payment tag and no need to swipe a card. MasterCard (NYSE:MA) has PayPass, American Express (NYSE:AXP) has ExpressPay, and JPMorgan Chase NYSE:JPM) issues Visa (NYSE:V) cards with Blink.
Similar technology has also recently been found in U.S. passports, which have started being issued with chips containing personal holder information.
DIFRwear's products, which the company says have been certified by the U.S. General Service Administration as effective for preventing skimming, block RFID transmissions with a built-in mesh layer that acts as a shield.
RFID-blocking wallets from DIFRwear start at $22.98 and are available in several colors and styles.
According to identity theft protection firm LifeLock, thieves with the right equipment can steal information right over the air from some cards with RFID technology. Indeed, researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2008 demonstrated that a scanner could obtain a credit-card number and consumer name from an RFID chip, though it said the risk is low.
One of the major issuers of credit cards with contactless payment technology, Chase, said it engineers its cards to be safe and secure. Chase Credit Card Services spokesperson Gail Hurdis told FOX Business "RFID technology is no less safe than it was in 2005 when we began issuing contactless cards and to date, we have not experienced incremental fraud levels with contactless Chase cards."
Hurdis said Chase encrypts what's called a dynamic card verification value code on the contactless chip in each card, which changes every time its used. Therefore, even if a thief were to successfully skim the account number and then tried to use it for more than one purchase, the transactions would be declined.
Still, for some consumers, products like those from DIFRwear can provide some peace of mind with an extra layer of security around their private information.