RFID (radio frequency identification) is a way of tracking things. Typically a small circuit chip called a tag is embedded in an object and the information contained in it can be read by a remote interrogator. The most well-known example is ear tags used to track animals. However, Wal-Mart makes use of RFID tags to improve inventory control and tracking. Here in Florida, as in many other states, we use it in our SunPass system for paying tolls.

Okay, so why should I care? If you pay cash for everything and don’t travel with a passport, you may not need to. However, since 2006 all U.S. issued passports have an RFID tag embedded in the cover. I’ll also bet most of your credit and debit cards have one. If you can pass your credit/debit card over a payment device to buy something without using the magnetic stripe…you have an RFID chip. Isn’t that convenient? You bet. Just like it’s convenient for that high-tech crook over there with the RFID reader draining your credit cards and bank account. Or that identity thief at the terminal scanning your passport.

The good news is most RFID devices are passive devices, meaning that they don’t have a battery and have to be activated by an outside device (the reader). All you have to do is prevent a reader from activating your chip except when you want. There are a few RFID blocking sleeves (such as the Travelon RFID Blocking Leather Passport Case Travel Wallets) available for you to protect your identity and credit cards. These sleeves have a protective liner that blocks the activation signal from an RFID reader. Protect your identity and your finances. But if you have so much money you don’t care, please adopt me…

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Filed Under: Ask the Cruise Dork

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