Technology

Why travel insurance won’t protect your cards

Hannah Edensor

We don’t travel without travel insurance, so why not add protection for our passport and credit cards?

That’s the logic behind Armourcard, the latest product to jump on the travel tech scene, with its sole purpose being to prevent your data from being stolen.

Radio Frequency Identification technology, or RFID, used in passports and ‘tap and go’ credit cards has seen a jump in ‘electronic pickpockets’, both in our own backyard and abroad.

According to Andrew Cathwright from Mastercard, ‘Tap & Go’ equates to 2% of all fraud in Australia, equalling approximately $120 million, and yet this is accounting for what is known or reported.

In 2011 alone, $6 Billion was attributed to fraud, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s 2011 report, making this product more relevant than you might think.

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With our data in tow, these crims can extort funds or steal information from us, without our documents – like our credit cards and passports – ever leaving our pockets.

Now, for most of us, being robbed of $50 won’t ruin our holiday, and if the number creeps a little higher, well that’s why we have travel insurance.

But what about our personal details – our passport numbers, photo IDs, credit card info – all of this can be skimmed wirelessly from up to a metre away, and we won’t even notice this invisible crime.

“This is a technical crime, we should tackle it with a technical solution,” Armourcard director Tyler Harris told Travel Weekly recently.

“These people can go as far as to take your information, and profile you as a person, then pull your name off your cards for identity theft. It’s a totally invisible crime.”

Harris kicked off the Armourcard project around two and a half years ago, in the hopes that we could actually prevent these crimes, rather than waiting for them to happen.

“Armourcard is a unique product,” Harris tells TW, “And the only one that jams the practice of stealing data. It’s active rather than passive.”

Armourcard jams the frequency 13.56 MHz, which is the most common frequency used for these contactless devices, Harris said, adding that the majority of people would not even know it’s happened.

The card is just inserted into your wallet alongside your passport and credit cards, with a protection range of 50 millimetres either side.

“It’s another line of protection that agents can offer to consumers,” Harris added, suggesting it should be “just another checklist” in the sales process for travel agents.

The first travel agency to stock the cards was Southlands Travel at Mawson in Canberra, a member of Magellan Travel Group, who began stocking and selling Armourcard in December last year, and who put in additional orders in January and February after selling out.

“We’re in the process of contacting other Magellan members, and what we can say is that so far, the feedback has been extremely positive,” MD of Powdersafe, the distributors of Armourcard, Tim Roberts said.

Harris explains it is a good incentive for agents, who can buy in bulk at wholesale price and resell to customers for the retail price of $49.95, adding another revenue stream in the booking of holidays.

Currently, Armourcard is sold online at www.armourcard.com.au, with 60% of sales currently hopping over to the USA.

JB Hi Fi started stocking it in selected stores in the last quarter of 2014, before rolling out to all stores in January, while other stores to pick up on the product include Harvey Norman, Vodafone Australia, and Tech 2 Go stores in Sydney Domestic Terminals.

Armourcard will also host a stall at AFTA in July, to bring travel agents into the loop with this protective product.

“Travellers to third world countries are especially vulnerable,” Harris explained.

“We’re starting with the travel industry, we’re hoping to take it beyond to all consumers, to encourage people to protect their valuable assets.”

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