Far Out Tech

These High-Tech Jeans Protect You From Wireless Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud

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If you carry a wallet in your pants pocket, you’re easy pickings for high-tech swindlers, not just the old-fashioned kind.

Today’s tech-savvy thieves can pickpocket you without ever actually picking your pocket. They don’t even have to steal your wallet. All they need is a few seconds, good aim and a cheap RFID reader and in seconds your identity is stolen and God knows how many fraudulent purchases made in your name are sure to follow. Pretty terrifying, right?

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But not if you’re wearing a pair of READY Jeans Protected by Norton, or so its makers claim. San Francisco-based Betabrand’s new RFID-blocking denim doozies are designed to let you fend off nearby identity thieves -- literally by the seat of your pants. And, yes, we mean that Norton, the Symantec cybersecurity company that sells anti-virus software.

Before we dive into how the pants protect you (don’t worry, it’s not rocket science), let’s clear up what RFID is. It stands for radio-frequency identification. Credit and debit cards, biometric passports, toll road transponders, door-opening workplace ID cards and hotel room key cards are just a few of the things RFID microchips are embedded in. People also use RFID tags to locate lost luggage and smartphones. You probably have a bunch of RFID-tagged items in your wallet right now. Basically, they’re everywhere.

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Here’s why you should care: To snatch your sensitive data, stealthy cybercriminals need only to point a wireless RFID scanner (purchased on Amazon for as little as $15) at your wallet. The scanner then gathers pertinent information from your credit card (numbers, expiration date and CVV code) and transmits it back to the thief wirelessly. The crime is called RFID-skimming.

That’s where Betabrand’s READY jeans come to your defense. The stretchy, slim fit pants (currently only available for men) feature pockets lined with RFID-blocking fabric: one in the front and one in the back. Slip your wallet into one of these decked out pockets, and it should be safe. At least that’s the big, simple idea.  

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Unfortunately the price is pretty big, too. A pair, partially lined with a bright yellow material that reads “GO BOLDLY, NOT BLINDLY,” will put you back $168 and won’t ship until February. Also, they’re not a foolproof solution. Betabrand admits READY jeans -- part of an ongoing and already successful crowdfunding campaign -- can’t “block all frequencies with 100% certainty, and even the most effective RFID-blocking materials can fail because of wear and tear and/or user error.”

If jeans aren’t your speed, check out Betabrand’s RFID-blocking Work-It hooded blazer ($148). To see both the jeans and the blazer in action, have a look at the promo video below:

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Edition: December 2016

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