Setting a purse down in the shopping cart to turn and reach for the box of Hamburger Helper on the shelf seems harmless enough.
Leaving a wallet on the passenger seat while running in to return a library book should be fine, too, right?
These few minutes, or even seconds, are the perfect opportunity for someone to snatch a credit card and head to the mall to buy a new HD TV on the cardowner's dime.
Credit card theft has become more prevalent nationwide, and Auburn has not been immune.
Captain Tom Stofer of the Auburn Police Department said he sees several cases of card theft in Auburn each month, and instances continue to increase.
"We've seen more of this type of theft this year than we did last year, and we will probably see more next year than we do this year," Stofer said. "Card theft is going up because card usage is. People are not carrying around cash anymore."
Stofer says people need to be careful about making sure their cards are secure.
"You have to be smart about the little things," Stofer said. "Strap your purse in the baby seat of a shopping cart. Carry your wallet with you at all times."
He also says people need to be cautious about where they keep their account information.
"The worst thing anyone can do is keep their PIN number in the same place as their bank account number," Stofer said. "It is very easy to steal money if these two numbers are figured out."
After someone realizes a card is missing, the first step is to cancel the card. The thief is usually out to make fast purchases, and immediately canceling the card prevents that from happening.
Next, the victim should file a police report. The thief, if caught, will be charged with unlawful possession and/or use of a credit card.
"The card does not even have to have been used," Stofer said. "If someone simply has possession of another person's card, they can be taken to court."
Whitnie Helms of the Auburn branch of Wachovia said she has noticed an increase in thefts over the internet.
"The main reason credit card theft has increased is because internet usage has increased," Helms said. "There are some smart hackers out there."
According to a pamphlet from Wachovia, if a card is lost or stolen, the owner of the card is covered by the Zero Liability Policy. The card owner will not be held responsible for charges he or she did not make.
The Online Services Guarantee ensures a card owner will be completelyt covered if he or she discovers unauthorized charges or activity online.
Gareth Bourriague, assistant branch manager at Region's Bank in Auburn, said he has noticed problems with credit cards, mainly because Regions is associated with VISA.
"VISA had a great number of thefts recently reported," Bourriague said, "and, because we are directly associated with VISA, we experienced some of this at Regions."
Regions Bank protects its customers by verifying unusual purchases with the customer.
"If we notice that a purchase that seems impossible to make has gone through, we immediately call and verify this with the customer," Bourriague said.
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