Betabrand, the San Francisco-based clothier who brought us “Gay Jeans” and fashion campaigns that feature super smart and supremely funny models, is launching its latest innovation to cover your butt and protect you from digital pickpockets.
The e-commerce company debuts its Ready jeans today, complete with RFID-blocking pockets. Those of you still laughing and thinking everyone is getting too paranoid, take heed.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft incidents have exceeded 9 million–that’s about 19 people per minute. Nearly one third (28%) involve credit or financial fraud, but the odds are about to get greater as we move towards using credit cards with to them. The RFID technology makes it easier for the consumer to pay for merchandise and go without waiting for a receipt and signature. This convenience may cost us.
Aite Group, a research and advisory firm, estimates that by the end of 2015, about 70% of credit cards and 40% of debit cards in the U.S. will have the chip. It’s simply a matter of having some determined thief sidle up to you while you’re waiting on line for a latte or at the movies, scan your pocket and–boom–they’ve got all the info to make a purchase at your expense or dig further and take over your identity. Another device, about the size of a tablet, can enable thieves to pull the card’s info from up to three feet away. Transunion estimates it takes the average victim an estimated $500 and 30 hours to resolve each identity theft crime.
Betabrand is taking these implications seriously. Aaron Magness, Betabrand’s VP of marketing says the company has been dabbling in various use cases for RFID blocking fabric as part of their ongoing innovation experiments. They were then approached by Grey, the ad agency for Norton (best known for its antivirus and online security software), to sew special material inside jean pockets to block the scanning technology. That fabric is bright yellow, kind of the same shade as caution tape, but you can’t see it at all from the outside.
Magness points out that the pants don’t just protect credit cards. “Modern passports are also RFID chipped,” he tells us. “They make another great use case for the type of thing you’d want to protect.”
But are they built to last? Magness says that the garments were tested extensively to ensure that they’ll keep hackers out of the wearers’ most sensitive areas. There is no degradation in the fabric itself, nor in the protection it offers,” he explains. “We put the jeans through over 20 washes and tested their ability to block the scanners which worked every time.”
Not to leave Betabrand’s female customers sans protection, the Norton technology has been stitched into a pocket of the company’s “Work-It Blazer,” a fitted jacket that comes with a detachable hoodie. Jeans may follow, if the men’s version does well in a crowdfunding round.
For those still unfamiliar with the irreverently comedic e-tailer, part of its strategy to debut new products is to make them available on its crowdfunding platform to gauge interest before manufacturing. This saves Betabrand on having to mark down less popular items in order to turn inventory. In turn, they give customers a discount if they place an order before the crowdfunding deadline is met. The earlier the order, the bigger the discount. Retail prices are $168 for the pants and $198 for the jacket.
It’s certainly a more stylish (and simple) alternative than wrapping up your cards in aluminum foil.