CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Investigators in Conway say credit card fraud is quickly becoming one of the area's top crimes, and the downfall of the economy is to partially to blame.
Investigator Chris Williamson says in an average month, the Conway Police Department investigates 30 to 40 cases involving financial crime. The crimes, according to Williamson, range from credit card theft to check fraud.
"It's probably the No. 1 crime on the rise," he explained on Tuesday. "It's very prevalent. It happens all the time."
While some criminals may think they have an easier time flying under the radar at large retail stores, Williamson says they're quickly learning how to tap into your wallet at the gas pumps.
Whether its by using skimmers or actual stolen cards, Williamson says gas stations are quickly becoming a new hot spot for credit card thieves.
"Most of these criminals know there [are] no cameras outside at the pumps and use the cards out at the pumps where there's no way to track them," he said.
But when a snapshot of a person illegally making a transaction on another person's card is tracked down by police, punishment comes knocking.
"I've seen anywhere from probation to five years in prison, depending on your criminal history," Williamson said, adding the severity of fraudulent charges also carry weight in the type of charge an offender receives.
Justin Jordan, of Myrtle Beach, says he's all too familiar with someone taking advantage of his hard-earned cash.
"You never think it's going to happen to you," he said. "You almost fee violated, like you took what I had. What I went out and worked for."
Jordan learned just a few weeks ago that someone had been using his bank account to buy Skype credits and gift cards over the internet. When the damage was complete, Jordan was out $700.
Police say the first line of defense from becoming a criminal's next target starts in your wallet.
Officers suggest not carrying around multiple credit cards, and say you should not sign the back of your cards. They say you should write "See ID," so a cashier can validate your identity when making a purchase.
If you find your bank or credit card account in jeopardy or notice any suspicious transactions, report the incident to police, the credit card company or bank immediately.