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Posted: March 29, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Electronic thefts hard to pinpoint

Law enforcement gives tips on ways to keep credit/debit cards safe

Debit and credit cards have added an ease to life that most people have grown accustomed to.

However, they also have created an easy way for thieves to steal money.

Newton County has seen its share of credit thefts and fraud with roughly 15 cases reported last week and an estimated 20 cases apiece reported to the Covington Police Department (CPD) and the Newton County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) since Feb. 1

The stealing of funds, credit/debit card numbers and information has been occurring at businesses, over the phone, over the web and through cash machines, resulting in money missing from accounts and being spent all over the world.

One report to the NCSO said more than $600 was spent at Walmart March 11 after the physical card went missing, another one told of an unknown charge of greater than $300 made in Lithonia on March 22 and another had reports of checks bouncing after discovering there were transactions made in Florida on March 22. The incidents are occurring with cards from all different institutions, credit unions and banks. According to both CPD and NCSO, many of the thefts get reported straight to the banks.

One local restaurant has gone through multiple measures to stop any possible theft after an investigation of on-site thefts turned out to be nothing. (See sidebar for the restaurants efforts to stop the hard-to-fight crime.)

According to authorities, the physical cards don’t even need to leave your possession for your information to be stolen.

“In all of these cases…the victim is unaware as to the location in which the information was compromised,” NCSO Public Information Officer Cortney Morrison said about the cases since Feb. 1.

Almost every business operates with a computerized financial system these days, and software struggles to keep up with the advancements in criminal technologies, officials said.

Covington Police Captain Ken Malcom said it’s hard to identify the root of the problems at times because of the lack of pattern.

“Periodically, a record system would be compromised, because it compromised multiple card numbers which are hit hard and quick,” Malcom said. “It may not happen again. There is no common denominator, just strangers who don’t always go to the same place or visit the same websites.”

Thefts are also occurring via phishing systems used to grab large quantities of credit card numbers out of gas machines.

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