We all use them to pay for food, fun or even our gasoline to fill up our vehicles, credit and debit cards.
But, that daily use may be putting people at more of a risk than they could ever imagine. It could even end up costing you or your loved ones thousands of dollars.
It’s a sound we all hear, some more than others, the swipe of our plastic. Most Americans own credit cards. Collectively, we have more than 500 million of them and Americans use credit cards almost 150 million times a day.
Jayme Hyer owns Hyer Standards, a Plover company who sets up businesses to accept plastic. She says credit cards are being used more than ever. "Cash is great but unfortunately were in a society that depends on plastic."
And millions of transactions mean lots of opportunities for thieves. "It is very scary. I think everyone is looking for a convenient way to make or accept if you’re on the merchant side but sometimes convenience is not always the smartest thing,” says Hyer.
Credit card fraud is nothing new. It’s been going on for years, even in our area. Jayme says she hears about it every single day, people being scammed for thousands of dollars.
If you do choose to use plastic, you need to be aware.Things you may think are keeping you safe, may actually be against the rules.
"I think the most common thing is not signing your credit card. They think you know what, I’m not going to sign the back of it. The truth is, you need to sign it so they can verify its you," says Jayme.
Merchants are not supposed to accept your card unless it's signed. Many don't abide by the rule, but some places like many post offices for example, will make you sign your card before you use it.
Also, be careful giving out your card number, especially over the phone. "Don’t give people your credit card number. I don’t care if your making an order over the phone or your making a purchase and say here is my card number you can dial it in later or push it in. don’t do it,” says Hyer.
Another place your number should never go, emails. That’s a piece of advice Deputy Chief Bryan Hilts of the Wausau Police Department says people need to learn about. "If you receive an email where someone says “we didn’t receive your credit card information please email to us,” that should put up a red flag."
Now, the good news. You have quite a bit of legal protection from thieves who would use your cards. In fact, most credit cards will leave you with zero liability if your card's used by a thief.
If you do think you've been scammed, or your credit card is being used by someone else, the best bet is to call your credit card company immediately.
Local police tell us credit card fraud cases can be hard to crack, so your best protection is to use common sense before you swipe.
"I think we just need to use some common sense when we are shopping that we only use reputable companies that were providing our information to," says Hilts.
Deputy Chief Hilts tells us that here in Wausau; they have very few cases where people's information is stolen. He says that the majority of the cases they deal with involve someone actually stealing another person's cards.