CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The tough economy is a perfect time for credit card thieves to prey on unsuspecting victims. Sadly, even taking some extra steps to protect yourself, like having your picture on your credit or debit card, could be a false sense of security.
Fox 19 Anchor Kimberly Holmes gave her co-worker Charlie Huebsch her checkcard to use at several stores throughout the Tri-state.
Store after store, swipe after swipe, clerks accepted Heubsch's check card, even though it wasn't his card. It's Holmes' and Huebsch and Holmes look nothing alike.
In fact, Huebsch used Holmes' card at five different stores: two big box pharmacies, two gas stations, and a liquor store. A Fox 19 hidden camera captured it all.
Huebsch handed all of the clerks the card with Holmes' picture facing them, but in most of the stores, the clerks just swiped the card; No questions asked. Those who did glance at the picture, didn't even ask Huebsch for any identification. Only one clerk at Smilin' Smoker Tobacco, Beer & Liquor Outlet in Covington refused to ring up Huebsch.
After the investigation, Fox19 returned to the store to tell managers at the store about the investigation. Sarah Kromer wasn't even phased by the fact she was the only one who passed the test. Kromer said she was just doing her job.
"It happens quite frequently, but as far as letting them use it regardless, they have to have an ID." Kromer said. "Even if it's their husband's. I won't let them use it."
Many people don't know their identity is stolen until it's too late. It can happen in one second, with one swipe. Just ask Kennedy Heights resident Glenda Yancey.
After returning home from a trip to Las Vegas, Yancey checked her credit card statement and noticed a charge she didn't remember making. That's because her card was swiped in the Netherlands.
"And here I see there's a charge," said Yancey. "I think it was $39 and some change, and then there was a credit, and I thought well that's kind of weird."
So she called her bank.
"I talked to the representative--really nice lady-- and as we were talking, she goes, Oh!, there's another charge. It just popped up for $1500," said Yancey. "I'm like, you gotta be kidding me, and it's from the same country! So I said, clearly, I'm on the phone with you here at home in Cincinnati. I don't know anything about that."
The card was canceled immediately. Yancey learned a lesson: no one is safe from credit card stealing creeps.
"If it had happened somewhere in Texas, maybe I would have thought, eh, maybe they put in a card number that was one number off or something," said Yancey. "Another country? That I've never been to?"
Careless credit charges aren't just happening here in the Tri-State. In Memphis, Tennessee, a secret shopper went undercover and racked up almost $500 worth of merchandise on a card that didn't belong her. Nobody double checked, and no one asked her for ID.
Leslie Kish of the Better Business Bureau in Cincinnati said credit card fraud is here to stay so you have to be proactive. Her best advice? Check your credit reports often.
"Watch your statements closely. Watch if you normally get something in the mail, put together a time, and it doesn't arrive, and you want to investigate that. Get your credit report."
"You have to be really aware of your identity," said Yancey. "I've read about it, but it had never affected me."
Until now when someone swiped her card.
Before someone takes advantage of you, it's a good idea to keep a list of your cards and the numbers in a safe place at home so you can report them stolen at any time.
Also, Kish says try not to keep all of your cards in your wallet.
And since the internet is a playground for crooks, make sure you have strong password for your cards. And don't use numbers related to your birthday or social security number.