How to protect yourself against simplest form of credit card theft

Posted at 11:39 PM, Jul 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-28 23:39:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Reviewing bank statements is now a nightly ritual for one Midlothian couple after hundreds of dollars were taken from their account, shortly after the data breach that hit major stores like Target last year.

Alison Markow tells CBS 6’s Lorenzo Hall that she thought her husband, Brant, was keeping a secret.

“It wasn't me. I was not buying stuff and getting into trouble that way. I was assuring her that I was not in Reston going shopping or anything,” Brant said.

Actually, hackers obtained their credit card information and went on multiple shopping sprees in Reston.

“I felt very violated, I guess, that someone had my information and I didn't know what other information they had besides my credit card number,” Alison said.


Then months later, the Markows still don't feel safe, even though companies have taken major steps to keep your money safe with new anti-theft technology.

New technology sounds great, but CBS 6 went to find out how these stores hold up against the simplest form of theft, when someone just steals your card and swipes it at the register.

In recent weeks, CBS 6 News has reported on a number of thieves taking debit and credit cards and then spending hundreds of dollars.

To find out if using a credit card that's not yours is as easy as it seems, Hall handed three cards to our CBS 6 Interns, Krista Willard and Matt Leonard.


One card has a picture on the front, another has no signature and the third, has “check ID" written on the back.

“I’ve used other people's credit cards to buy stuff before. I mean, not ones that were stolen,” Leonard said.

CBS 6 traveled to nearly a dozen stores, chosen at random across central Virginia. Stores like Kroger, Target, Pleasants Hardware and Walmart allow you to swipe your own card, with no mechanism in place to catch thieves.

Pleasants and Kroger only require a cardholder's signature after a certain amount of money is spent. Target said your card must be flagged by your bank or credit card company first for them to notice.

We also tried stores that actually handle your card and swipe for you.

Using the card with no signature first, Leonard was able to freely make purchases at Mongrel in Carytown and Chick-Fil-A.

“He just seemed rushed and didn't seem too worried about it,” Leonard said.

When he tried the card with "Check ID" at Buzz and Ned's and Sugar Shack, the cashier's did check, but still went through with the sale, even when he couldn't produce a matching ID.

“I said, 'It's not my card.' She asked whose it was and I said, 'My friend's,'” Leonard said.

Willard got the same reaction at Arby's, Lamplighter Coffee and Traveling Chic Boutique. Using a card with a picture that clearly doesn't match, Krista was never questioned.

“I figured because of the picture there was a greater chance, it was a little riskier that she would say something, but, I don't even think she flipped the card over and looked at it,” Willard said.


From there, Hall went inside all the stores to find out why and was told, “I’m not sure,” by Lamplighter Coffee, “It was a mistake,” by Mongrel, “This was a slip-up,” by Arby’s, “Employees are supposed to check,” by Chick-Fil-A and “Employees are still training,” by Traveling Chic Boutique.

Buz Grossberg, Owner of Buzz and Ned’s took it a step further. He met with managers immediately after we informed him of our investigation and reminded them about the importance of having cashiers thoroughly check your debit and credit cards.

“We are as much to blame as our cashier because we should be checking them way more often,” Grossberg said.

CBS 6 took our findings to Nancy Thomas, President of the Richmond Retail Merchants Association. Thomas told us, she is disappointed and is urging retailers to better train their staff.

“The responsibility of the retailer is really in the training. It’s not just about giving good product service or the goods that you offer your consumers. It’s about protecting them as well,” Thomas said.

Thomas also urges consumers to better protect themselves by reviewing bank and credit card statements daily.

CBS 6 should note, none of the stores listed have done anything illegal, but are urged to check credit and debit cards if they are not signed or have “Check ID” written on the back.

CBS 6 have not yet heard back from Sugar Shack or Wal-Mart.

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