With credit card bills from the holidays arriving in mailboxes, now is the time many people are discovering they were the victim of credit card fraud or theft.
Tysons Corner showed a big spike in identity theft this year, police said.
Lori Clarke is using a new credit card after she said her number was mysteriously stolen during the holiday shopping season.
"We got a call two days after Christmas, and the credit card company said the number had been compromised, so stop using the card," Clarke said.
Fairfax County Police anti-theft teams at Tysons Corner and Fair Oaks Malls said they saw a huge spike of fake cards being used. In some cases, people were arrested with dozens, stolen numbers with re-made illegal cards.
According to Fairfax County Police, the theft occurs in a variety of ways. Some card numbers are taken using skimmers, devices that read the embedded details inside a credit card's magnetic strip. Other numbers are stolen by those using the telephone, scam artists who talk someone out of giving out their credit card information. In other cases, old-fashioned theft is employed, where the card numbers are taken off the cards themselves.
However, in all cases, it appears thieves are using the legitimate numbers, even magnetic strips and remaking fraudulent cards. Lt. Tony Matos of the Fairfax County Police Department describes how this happens.
"With the suspect's name and information, it looks like it's their credit card. However, the magnetic strip will say otherwise," Matos said.
Jennifer Bateman had her purse stolen just before Christmas and immediately cancelled her credit cards.
"It really is a violation of your privacy and makes you feel so vulnerable," said Bateman. "I just worry that someone still has my information and can do something else bad with it."
Stores are working to guard against card fraud, too.
"There is no way the number shows up on credit card receipts," said store manager Fran Ryan.
For others, the concern keeps them away from shopping with plastic.
"I only use cash," said McLean resident Richard America. "I have one credit card for emergencies only and for travel."