Credit card thieves are able to steal credit card numbers by using the same technology stores use to make purchases easier.
Millions of credit and debit cards are outfitted with radio frequency identification chips (RFID).
The chips use radio waves to transmit credit card numbers to specially designed readers to complete credit card transactions. The technology allows a customer to pass their card within a few inches of a reader to complete a purchase without physically swiping a card through the reader.
Thieves have converted smart phones and other devices to do the same in the public when they come within a few inches of a person's wallet or purse.
Once the credit card number is collected the thief can use it to make purchases or make a clone of the victim's credit card.
"The attackers are getting more and more creative with ways to get data off of systems," Mark Burnette, Director of Risk Services for Lattimore, Black, Morgan & Cain said.
Lattimore, Black, Morgan & Cain is a Brentwood company of certified public accountants and business advisors. Among the firm's services its risk services division focuses specifically on information security, data protection and compliance audits for major credit card companies.
"We do some hired hacking where companies will call us to break in to their computer systems and show them how we got in and keep the bad guys from getting in," Burnette said. "If you look at it in essence what they are doing is saying there is information out there I want to try to get."
Banks have added safeguards to cards equipped with RFID technology to help protect consumers. For instance when a card number is taken using radio waves personal information like PINs and validation codes are not included.
One way consumers can protect themselves is buy getting a metal wallet or carrying case for their credit cards.
"The RFID does not travel through metal," Burnette said. "You can buy an RFID proof wallet to keep your cards in there."
He continued, "A kind of poor man way of doing it is you can get aluminum foil and line your wallet with it."
Business traveler Alan Gryn had not heard of thieves using radio waves to steal credit card numbers. He travels for work at least once a week and often takes special precautions to protect his personal items and information.
"You have got to be diligent and watch everything and even in a hotel room you can't leave your laptops can't leave your Ipads," he said. "It's just amazing to me the things people will do."
Gryn said he plans to look into a RFID proof wallet after learning about his possible vulnerability to person stealing his credit card number by simply standing near him.
"I know the wallet you are talking about and I am considering buying one," he said.
Law enforcement said it is hard to track exactly how many cases of identity theft are caused by RFID use, because often times when people realize their card was compromised they can not pin point exactly when the number was stolen.
That also makes it difficult to determine exactly how it was stolen.