New wallet blocks RFID skimming, BYUH Security head says students may be susceptible to identity theft

Written by: 
Malia Diaz

RFID-blocking wallets are a new function designed to help protect individuals from a form of electronic pickpocketing called RFID skimming. “The concern is that some credit cards, passports, and driver's licenses now come with embedded radio frequency identification chips,” writes Will Oremus of Slate.com.

Earl Morris, head of BYUH Security, said he has been a victim of credit card fraud. “I bought something at Sam’s Club and within an hour, I got a phone call from my credit card company. Someone happened to be tapping their system while I was making my purchase. This has happened to me multiple times.”

According to Slate, someone with an RFID reader can activate chips in credit cards or licenses to pick the information they’re designed to transmit, all without the owner knowing. Some RFID readers can skim information from several feet away. The RFID-blocking wallets protect cards inside of them from having their information transferred.

Morris said he has also had several friends who have had their identity compromised. “I’m betting that 10-20 percent of this campus has had experiences with identity theft. When you lose your identity, sometimes it can take years to recover. It affects everything from your credit to your name. Once the wrong person gets ahold of your identification, they can start wreaking havoc,” said Morris.

Morris has spent decades in law enforcement around the world and has seen the adverse effects of identity theft in his career. “Working on this campus, I see a lot of students carrying their social security cards with them because campus requires it for so many things. Social security cards don’t have a picture on them, and anyone can use it. Creating a false identification card is pretty simple, it’s way too easy,” said Morris. He encourages students to keep their social security cards in a safe place at home or in their dorms, but not to carry it around in their wallets.

“Have good protection on your cards. Use ATMs and don’t carry large amounts of cash on you while traveling.”

Isaac Solaita, an exercise sports science junior from Washington, said fraud can be the scariest experience. “First of all, you don’t see it coming. It can ruin your life. Luckily when it happened to me it wasn’t thousands of dollars, but it was the few hundred in my account. To suddenly see my account in the negatives was the worst feeling when all of a sudden my money was gone,” he said.

Solaita explained that his bank resolved the problem, but it happened again. “For me it was extra difficult because I was on my mission in California. It wasn’t an easy fix to dedicate time to because missionaries are so busy,” he said.

“I can’t imagine being out of the country and having hundreds missing from your account by complete surprise. You slide your card and it’s denied with all your money gone,” said Solaita.

“I would invest in one of the RFID wallets because of today’s world. It’s so much easier for someone to be able to get ahold of your information whether it's your social security number or credit card information. The wallets are affordable and it’s a minor sacrifice for something bigger,” he said.

“It’s not just your bank account and then you can get someone taking away your credit score. There goes your opportunity to get a house. And trying to get your credit score fixed is a nightmare. Identity theft is not a joke. Millions of families suffer from every year,” said Solaita.

Tamisha LeiSam, a junior in hospitality tourism management from Tonga, said she has never been a victim of identity theft of fraud. “I definitely think that wallets with the RFID-blocking feature should be offered on campus. I heard that some teachers had their accounts hacked and money stolen.

“It definitely shows that even though we are surrounded by LDS people, we can never be too safe. I would be interested in getting it for my phone. Like most everyone else, ALL of my information is on my phone and I believe it is better to be safe than sorry,” said LeiSam.

The RFID-blocking feature can be found in both wallet and handbag brands. These products can be purchased on Amazon.com or other retail websites.

Date Published: 
Friday, May 5, 2017
Last Edited: 
Friday, May 5, 2017