There’s lessons learned if you lived in New York, as I did in the 80’s and 90’s, that dealt with how you entered and exited an ATM. Being vigilant required keeping your eyes open and having fast reflexes. These “analog” preventative measures ensured that no one followed you into an ATM or was waiting to accost you just as you exited. Today’s digital world has changed all that — a miscreant can steal your identity over the Internet easier than can be imaged. But one of the worst problems comes from our reliance on plastic: these credit cards and other identify data cards now fill our pockets daily. They’re a great convenience when it comes time to use them, but thanks to RFID (radio frequency identification) technology have become even more vulnerable to theft — especially as a thief doesn’t have to actually take hold of the card. So what can one do short of giving up using these RFID-enabled cards? Get a wallet that shields against RFID, is what. But to keep from looking like you’re pocketing duct-tape made wallets, make that choice a SLIMMY Wallet Original with RFID shielding.
The SLIMMY (pronounced slim-ee) wallet at first glance appears to just be a half-sized men’s wallet that is, well, slim like the name implies. And due to its compact construction and property values, the handcrafted leather wallet easily conforms to a front hip pocket as the body moves it about during the day. There’s three compartments, but it’s the center one that is going to hold a RFID-enabled card(s). That’s because the center compartment, unlike the ones on either side, is shielded against radio waves, blocking any transmission from the card out. To cancel this, just move the card to one of the other two pockets (or remove it for use and then put it back).
Now here’s what RFID is all about: a passive radio transmitter built into a chip is embedded into a card, for example, one that says “PayPass” on it like MasterCard has. Such a card doesn’t have to be slid through a slot on a card reader to be used; just touching it to a RFID-enabled card reader does the trick (usually a momentary rub is needed). The chip in the card transfers the needed information for the transaction (such as the card #, person’s name, expiration date, etc.) and so makes for little effort. The RFID also works at extremely short range (although there has been some disputes as to this being true in all cases), so safety would seem assured, since it could be used from within a wallet or purse held up to the reader. That is, unless someone has a card reader designed to “capture” this information from a RFID-enabled card that has come within reach. Since such readers are inexpensive and easily assembled from kits, it sounds appealing to those looking for scamming counterfeit cards or other nefarious uses, After all, there’s 35 million+ RFID cards out there and counting. And even if the odds against it happening are in your favor — if there’s that one time someone with a card reader is standing behind you as you wait in line, that’s one time too many in my book.
So since I’m all for making things harder for those looking to get a free ride off my back, I emptied my wallet and transferred some of the contents to the SLIMMY (since there’s only three compartments, I separated them out for holding some paper money in one, credit cards and IDs like my driver’s license in the middle and others in the last). Testing the SLIMMY’s RFID protection was as simple as going to a merchant whose RFID reader I’ve used many times before. First I held a RFID-enabled card a few inches from the reader and saw it was being picked up. I then placed the card in the SLIMMY’s compartment that held my cash and held up the wallet and again the card was registered. The final test had me moving the card to the center pocket, where I then held the wallet right up against the reader and gyrated it all around to no avail. For all practical purposes the card was effectively invisible to the card reader. Nada. Inert. And while it’s a stiff fit for the center compartment, the wallet itself is supple and lightweight. You have to take the extremes of what Koyono says can be put in it — 15 Bills, 8 Plastic Cards, 5 Receipts, 2 Business Cards — with a grain of salt because YMMV (your mileage may vary) and probably will.
Bottom line: The SLIMMY Wallet Original with RFID shielding won’t take the place of common sense when it comes to protecting oneself against data/identity theft, but it will stop RFID stealing dead in its tracks. Plus it looks a whole lot better when pulled out of a pocket than an aluminum foil wallet made from duct-tape. $42.00 gets you security and style.
Form-fitting, RFID protection
Proper insertion of paper money a must
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.