A vast majority of Americans are now using credit or debit cards for every day purchases, that's one of the main reasons credit card fraud has sky rocketed. In 2012 alone, this form of fraud was responsible for $18.5 billion worldwide.
Scam artists are smarter and sneakier using skimmers and databases to access your information. "2012 was a very busy year as we did have an increase in fraud in the local area." Tyndall Federal Credit Union's Assistant VP of Lending, Jean Louise Hayes says.
However, thieves are also getting away with simpler tactics, using stolen credit cards freely. Visa, MasterCard and American Express say an unsigned card is invalid and merchants should take the necessary steps to verify your identity.
So how many are actually doing that? News 13 put it to the test. Andrew Ruiz went shopping with our News Director's unsigned credit card at four Bay County retailers.
We got away with more than $200 in merchandise, 2 coffee makers, 2 dress shirts and a tie. Wal-mart, Target & Jc Penny failed the test. "They aren't trying to protect the member's identity or their credit card or their bank accounts by not checking for the ID." Tyndall Federal Credit Union's Chief Operating Officer Debbi Dial says.
Wal-Mart and Jc Penny declined to comment on the failed practices, only Kohl's asked for ID.
On the day of the incident a manager at Target told us they treat their customers as guests, they don't compare signatures and don't ask for ID, which is against the policies put forth by the credit card companies.
"If they are accepting a visa card, they are bound by the rules and regulations provided by visa. Regardless what other company policies have." Hayes says.
Target's corporate office issued a statement saying they are committed to protecting guest against fraudulent purchases. The company relies on electronic authorization as the primary approval method for authorization.
Visa says if there is no signature on the card, the merchant should ask the cardholder for ID and then to sign the card.
If a card is not signed, MasterCard says it's invalid.
American Express says if the card is unsigned; the merchant should ask them to sign it and compare it to the signature on a photo id.
As for signed cards, all major credit cards say comparing the signature of a receipt to the one on the back of the card is just one of the many ways merchants can protect their customers.
So are retailers being held accountable and if not, who is? Tyndall FCU says financial institutions, like themselves, are carrying the burden.
"It's unfair to the members for what they have to go through when these cards are breached and it's unfair to the financial institutions that have to bare the entire burden of this." Dial says.
Tyndall FCU says identity theft was up in 2012 and they suffered the consequences, regardless of who's to blame. But they are taking action to protect themselves.
"That is something that is very important to us, especially given what we experienced last year and feeling like our hands are tied to some degree because there are no laws out there that require merchants to do anything that they're doing right now." Dial adds.
Financial institutions are able to file formal complaints against merchants who aren't following practices, investigations usually begin then. Tyndall FCU says if the stores are found negligent, the penalties can be in the millions.