GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) Using debit and credit cards seems to be a way of life these days, unfortunately, hackers know that all too well and have more sophisticated ways of ripping you off.
While criminals have been stealing and using financial information online for awhile, they're now able to use your information in stores at the checkout down the street or around the world.
But how are they doing that if you have your debit and credit cards in your possession?
Jeff Baxter is a detective with the Greenville Police Financial Crimes Unit and says, "Even though you have the card, they're getting the information and they're making cards."
Baxter says they can get that information in several ways, including from online breaches, people who have access to your card during purchases, or from skimmers attached to ATM's or gas pumps, like the ones found at ATM's in Greenville last year.
The skimmers collect the information on the card, while a camera is pointed at the keypad.
Baxter says, "So they were capturing not only the information on your card but also your PIN number as you put it in."
Then it's as simple as buying a card printer and software on the internet and thieves are in business.
Selena Barrow of Pitt County has been a victim financial information fraud.
She says, "You feel violated. One of my cards had like $5,000 on it that I had not charged anything on. And they went to Best Buy and bought about $4,500 worth of electronics. They did it with my debit card as well. It was 500.00.
So how can you protect your information?
Baxter says be cautious of where you use your card online. Try to not to let it leave your eyesight when your paying for something. And when using the ATM or filling up at the gas station, do what Baxter did recently.
He says, "The first thing I did was pulled on the area where you put your credit card in before i used it."
He wanted to check and make sure there were no card skimmers for thieves just waiting to steal his information and go on a shopping spree, leaving him with a financial headache.
Baxter says, "Anybody can be a victim of this kind of fraudulent activity because it's so prevalent."
Barrow filed police reports and spent a lot of time and effort to get the charges reversed, which she was successful at.
However, because someone opened new accounts in her name, her credit score did take a hit.
Barrow has signed up with a credit monitoring service, so there's essentially a freeze on her credit. No one can open new credit in her name without a special code.
Another great thing to do is to check all of your accounts daily. If something doesn't look right, contact your bank immediately so the charges are canceled and you can get a new card.