RFID Theft: Should Travelers Be Worried?

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By Ryan Gargiulo

Royce Leather RFID Blocking Passport Jacket
Photo: Royce Leather RFID Blocking Passport Jacket

What Is RFID?

RFID = Radio Frequency Identification Device

It wasn’t until I received my new passport in the mail that I noticed a small gold emblem at the bottom of the front cover of my passport.

It had been nine and a half years since I last renewed my passport so all of this RFID talk was completely German to me.

What most people don’t know is that United States passport holders are not the only ones with RFID chips in our passports.

As a matter of fact, many countries already have integrated RFID chips in their passports.

Did you know: Some U.S. credit cards have integrated RFID chips. In 2011, the Nilson Report stated that there were some 35 million contactless chip cards in circulation.

How Do I Know If I Have an RFID Passport?

If you have a RFID chip in your passport, you’ll notice a small logo at the bottom center of your passport that looks like this.


According to “big brother”, having an RFID chip in your passport makes it easier for customs and immigration officials to quickly and easily identify you.

Wait, so you’re trying to tell me that my old passport isn’t quick enough?

I can’t remember a time that I stepped up to the immigration booth and spent more than three minutes as my information was being processed.

Oh, other than that one time that I returned from a six month around the world trip that included three trips to Egypt in the span of those six months. Yeah, I had a lot of explaining to do.

Okay, fine. Put a chip in my passport. But, before you do, are there risks involved?

The Dangers of RFID Theft

“RFID chips are basically tiny two-way radios that are so small they can fit inside a credit card, an article of clothing, the inside of a shampoo bottle cap, etc.,” he explains.

The chip, essentially a transponder, carries identifying data and can be queried and read, or “sniffed,” at a distance.” – Source.

RFID chips contain an electronic version of your passport data, your photograph, and sometimes even fingerprints depending on the issuing country.

Your personal data + a wireless chip that broadcasts signals in the air that can be easily intercepted by thieves. RFID theft sure doesn’t sound so good!

Did you know: According to Tamperseal.com, criminals can purchase RFID readers on eBay for as little as $8 dollars.

How To Protect Yourself From RFID Theft

The first step in RFID theft prevention for travelers would be to purchase a RFID Blocking Passport Jacket.

Even if RFID theft isn’t as dangerous as some claim it to be, I think that it’s totally worth the small investment to pick yourself up a slick new passport jacket that doubles as a safety net between your information and the thieves trying to access it.

RFID Passport Jackets



RFID Passport Wallets

If you’re looking for something to store both your RFID passport and your RFID credit card, go for an all-in-one RFID Blocking Passport Wallet.

RFID PASSPORT Wallet All-in-One Organizer

RFID PASSPORT Wallet All-in-One Organizer

Tip: If you’re carrying your passport in your pocket or your purse, make sure it’s completely closed. The cover of your passport will provide some shielding to the RFID chip, but only if it’s fully closed.

Should I Be Worried About RFID Theft?

So, is RFID theft something that us travelers should be overly worried about?

I don’t believe so. While RFID readers can be purchased on the cheap, I imagine the odds of someone actually swiping the data from your passport is a pretty rare occurrence.

Plus, I’m willing to bet the potential thief really has to know what he’s doing in order to get his or her dirty little paws on your data.

Then again, considering how inexpensive RFID Blocking Passport jackets are these days, wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?

Are you worried about RFID theft? Weigh in by leaving a comment below.

Related: How to Keep Your Money Safe While Traveling

16 thoughts on “RFID Theft: Should Travelers Be Worried?”

  1. US passport RFIDs don’t contain data. Only a database reference number that corresponds to a file with your actual data stored on US government computers. Without access to the government computers, that reference number isn’t very valuable.

    • Thanks for the reply Anil. I’ve seen mixed reports on this but it sounds as if that method would be a great way to ensure that the data is secure. Then again, as we all know, just about anything can be hacked these days. The good news is that with this sort of security, it’s even less of a worry for U.S. travelers. If I’m not mistaken, many countries embed their data directly onto the RFID chip though, correct?

      • Generally, yes. Many in Europe, Japan, etc. although the data is encrypted. (Not the strongest encryption but it’s not in plain text at least on the chip in most cases.)

  2. Having worked with online security companies for a few years this sounds pretty easy for thieves to do. It’s probably not a big thing right now but I vividly remember one of my clients telling me, ‘it’s just not likely a smartphone will be compromised by malware’. Hmmm…. I’ll be purchasing a RFID Blocking Passport Jacket before the next trip. Thanks for the tip.

  3. It’s worth it, in my opinion. I’m not sure about the collection of data and when it is happening. I believe it can happen anywhere, not just upon entry/exit.

  4. something else you might like is the Blackout Pocket from Scottevest… it’s got the RFID blocking feature to protect credit cards and passports and capability to get you “off the grid” for items like cell phones, too. Not sure if on their website yet but should be soon. Cheers!

  5. IMHO these blocking features are a sales gimmick. RFID passports have been in use in the US for years now (2006?) and longer in some other countries. I’ve scoured the web searching for even one single solitary case of identity theft occurring due to hacking an RFID passport. After multi millions of uses, haven’t seen one yet but I’m no detective, maybe it has happened somewhere. There have been some limited lab demonstrations of how they can supposedly be hacked but if that’s the case, where are the crimes to back it up. On the other hand, thousands of passport are reported lost and stolen all the time so I think the likelihood of a good pickpocket or hotel thief stealing your identity is a gazillion times more likely. Also, the RFID theft as I understand it requires a 2 way conversation between your passport chip and a reader that has been provided the Machine read data off your passport in order to interpret the encrypted data. with some good equipment and the knowledge to back it up it is conceivable that someone could eavesdrop and record this data exchangeat the border checkpoint but he’ll look pretty damn suspicious doing it. Of course technology advances and the equipment necessary will only get smaller and better so maybe… Otherwise, in order to get your personal information, the thief has to steal your passport in order to communicate with the chip. Once he has your passport he doesn’t need to communicate with the chip in order to commit identity theft. He already has your damn passport. So I will not be purchasing this item.

  6. I’m interested in buying a cheap one, though I’m looking at alternatives, namely making your own RFID Blocking sleeves from metal sheets or foil.


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