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Armourcard beats RFID skimmers, without changing your wallet

With contactless payments on the rise, one Australian company has created a small device to block RFID scanners from skimming your card details -- and you won't need to buy a new wallet.

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The Armourcard uses active jamming technology to block RFID skimming. Armourcard

Protecting your credit cards from wireless skimming no longer requires switching out your wallet, thanks to a new device, released out of Australia, that uses electronic jamming technology to beat RFID scanners at their own game.

The major banks have really jumped on board the contactless payment bandwagon, offering their customers simple credit card transactions without the need to swipe a magnetic strip or enter a PIN. The cards use Radio Frequency Identification, allowing shoppers to electronically share card details with a payment terminal, all by passing their card near the terminal.

But while the banks offer money-back guarantees and security promises in case of fraud, Australian company Armourcard says there is still a segment of the market that remains concerned about identity theft and card skimming.

RFID-blocking wallets have gone some way to address these concerns, but Armourcard is tackling the problem head on with what it claims is the first active RFID jamming device for everyday credit card users.

The battery-powered device -- also named Armourcard -- is about the size of two credit cards stacked on top of each other. Slipped in amongst the cards inside a wallet or purse, the Armourcard sits dormant until it comes into range of an RFID reader, at which point it actively jams any scanning attempts using a signal on the same frequency as the reader.

Armourcard uses the 13.56 MHz spectrum, the same frequency used internationally for RFID data transfer on credit cards and ePassports, but its designed not to interfere with other RFID spectrums such as those used for office access cards.

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The Armourcard also works with chip-enabled ePassports. Armourcard.

While the battery power means it will eventually stop working, Armourcard says its device will last up to 2 years with 10 activations a day. And to ensure the jammer doesn't stop you from making payments at contactless card terminals, there's a small capacity switch on the corner of the device that disables the jamming signal when you press it with your finger.

Being able to switch RFID blocking on and off comes with its own level of convenience, but the design of the Armourcard also has benefits over traditional card sleeves in that its capable of protecting a whole wallet of cards at the same time.

The company behind the device has slowly been making inroads into the accessories market, which has required educating consumers about active jamming technology and widening its retail footprint to ensure shoppers can get their hands on the device.

Armourcard has started rolling out in earnest into major retailers across Australia, with products in selected JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Vodafone stores as well as Tech2Go stores in airports. Because its jamming signal also blocks skimming of chip-enabled ePassports (and because card fraud is more of drama when you're overseas), Armourcard says the travel accessories industry makes up a significant part of its business.

The company is also starting a concerted push into the US market, though adoption there may be slowed by the low take-up of contactless payments. Although chip-enabled cards have been commonplace in Australia for some time and Chip & PIN technology was officially mandated in August last year, American cards still rely on older magnetic stripe technology, with chip-enabled cards only required for transactions from October this year.

Despite this, Armourcard says roughly 60 percent of sales currently come from the US through its online store.

The Armourcard is available for AU$59.95, £34.95 or $49.95 for US buyers.