Sometimes people are a bit unsettled to learn that they have a microchip in their passport. Thoughts of Big Brother and hackers stealing personal information begin swirling around people’s heads. If you’re worried that your passport microchip is a danger to you in some way, let us assuage your fears now.
US passports issued since 2007 all have an RFID chip in the front cover. RFID stands for radio frequency identification. Devices with these kinds of chips can be scanned by someone at close range in order to obtain the information on the chip. The chip in your passport contains the personal contact information found on the photo page of your passport, including your picture, but that’s it. No one is going to be able to access your FBI file or your tax returns by scanning your passport.
There is the fear that someone walking by with an RFID reader could scan your passport without you knowing and steal your contact information. However, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, your passport cover would have to be open in order for the perpetrator to be able to scan your passport. In other words, if you’re walking around with your passport in your pocket, no one should be able to scan it. Plus, if you’re worried about someone being able to scan your passport with an RFID reader, you can buy an RFID shielded wallet to put your passport in, which will completely protect you from such an attack.
And to be clear, even if someone did take the time to steal your information through the RFID chip in your passport, there’s a very small chance that they would actually be able to do anything with the information they obtained.
RFID chips and microchips in general are a lot more common than you may think. They’re used in passports in over 80 countries around the world, not just the United States. RFID chips are found in hotel room keys, company ID cards, and student IDs. Similar microchips are found in credit cards and contain a great deal more information than the info found on the chip in your passport.
RFID chips have actually been put into passports to improve your security and help deter fraud. If someone tries to steal your passport and alter the information found on the page, any immigration official who scans the chip will see that the information doesn’t match and catch the thief.
If you have more concerns about the RFID chip in your passport or related travel document matters, contact our team and we will be happy to answer all of your questions.
Laurie Lee is co-founder and CEO of Swift Passport and Visa Services. A Chicago native, Laurie loves adventure travel, especially to the Caribbean. She enjoys writing for the Swift Post, as well as for her personal blog, Spare Parts- www.sparebodyparts.com.