Using debit cards at Michaels craft stores caused major headaches for a lot of folks like Cody Alexander.
Cody says, "Somebody had been trying to spend money in our account."
He and many others learned crooks had tried or were successful at taking hundreds, even thousands of dollars from their checking accounts over the weekend.
We're told banks and credit unions will return the money, but the hassle remains.
Those who are affected... customers who used Michaels pinpads to pay for items at Michaels from February 8th through May 6th of this year.
Jennifer Carson says, "It's my money and someone is stealing it and I don't know. It feels very eerie."
Edgar Johnson explains, "It's extremely scary when someone can get into your account. They haven't touched your card and you haven't handed it to anybody."
So how can we protect ourselves from crooks who have compromised store pinpads or even put skimmers on gas station pumps? Retired FBI agent Jeff Lanza says don't use debit cards at all.
Jeff says, "A debit card makes you more vulnerable. They can take all the money out of your bank account without your knowledge and then you have to fight to get the money back from your bank. It's much better if you use a credit card."
Jeff believes credit cards offer more protection. They're not tied into your checking account and won't hold up the use of your money like debit cards will.
Jeff travels the country advising banks and businesses how to better protect themselves from criminals. He says no system is fool-proof.
He adds, "Unfortunately it's like the cold war. You know it's escalating so they do a better job of protecting and the crooks do a better job of hacking."
Jeff also also says police your accounts using the online function.
Every couple of days log on and look for suspicious charges way in advance of getting your statements.
Ironically, I just learned today my card was compromised. It's not connected to the Michaels situation.
I was told to properly dispose of it I could either shred it with a high powered shredder, use a strong magnet across the magnetic stripe to deactivate it, or cut it into several pieces, chopping through the name, account number, expiration date, and security code.
Finally don't put all the card pieces into one trash bag. Separat them and put them into a couple of different trash bags.
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