Your New Passport May Need a "Shield"

Courtesy Stewart/Stand

Few things feel more satisfying than a worn passport stamped-up with proof of your wide travels. But when that passport comes due for renewal, you'll have to kiss it goodbye. The government won't return it as a keepsake. It instead will issue you a new, high-tech one. The new one will have a RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag, which will store biometric and other information about you. In an absurd twist, some experts say this tag can be "scanned" by devices at a distance, making your information vulnerable. So, you may want to consider buying an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve to protect yourself.

To recap, RFID-enhanced passports have microchips and radio antennas that can track your location and send a unique identifying number to an electronic reader. But it's not just scanners at passport control that can read the information wirelessly. "Bad guys" can use scanners of their own to read your passport wirelessly from a distance. In other words, your passport may accidentally broadcast your citizenship, name and birth date, and biometric details to thieves or other troublemakers, without their ever taking possession of it.

The government recognizes this problem and has built into the covers of its new passports "RFID shields," which seem to provide reasonably good protection on their own—as long as the covers stay closed. The shields are essentially aluminum foil inside a discreet wrapping.

But some people may want to take more precautions and consider buying a discreet cover for their travel credentials that can shield their passport from data snatchers.

Some top sources of RFID shield passport holders, wallets, and sleeves include:

Travelon sells several RFID blocking sleeves, recently from $7 on Amazon.

Stewart/Stand has a Leather & Stainless Steel RFID Blocking Bi-Fold Wallet, recently $65 on Amazon.


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