You've probably heard of skimming at a gas-station pump when crooks steal your credit or debit card number, but it can also happen when you check out while shopping online.
This cybercrime is known as virtual e-skimming or form jacking and it happens without you even knowing it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, shopping online soared, and with all that spending, scams followed, causing major financial losses.
The FBI said $1.8 billion was lost to e-skimming and similar online thefts last year.
"If you look at in just 2020, it has been reported the highest monetary loss, among all the different crimes that are reported to the FBI," said Jay Patel with the FBI.
With the help of a cybersecurity expert at Source Defense, the FBI created a fake online vendor to show you how hackers steal your information as you shop online.
"This problem exists on virtually every website on the internet," said Matt McGuirk with Source Defense.
The company's new study found that this type of attack happens every 39 seconds. McGuirk explained how easily the scam can happen.
"When I click proceed to check out here, we'll see the normal checkout process in the background," he said. "In the foreground, we see this black and green box, which is the attack that is just sprung into action. Now, in reality, these attacks are always silently, the visitor sees nothing, but so we can kind of illustrate what the attacker is doing, we're giving you the side-by-side view,"
Hackers can not only steal your personal information but also your credit or debit card information. Experts say they then sell that information on the black web. One way to protect yourself right now from this type of online skimming is to consider a virtual credit card.
"Although they are connected to your credit card, they have these generated account numbers and security codes, and expiration dates, that allow you to keep your actual credit card information and account information secure," said Catherine Honeycutt with the BBB of Eastern North Carolina.
These disposable card numbers are designed to protect your actual account number from falling into the wrong hands.
"If a company experiences a data breach, and you've used your temporary credit card then the scammer can have access to that information, but they have no way of tracing it back to your actual account information," Honeycutt said.
You can also dedicate only one credit card for online shopping to better keep track of your transactions. Also, remember you should use credit as opposed to a debit card, as it gives you the most protection and is easier to dispute fraud charges.
Also, set up text alerts on your accounts so you can detect fraudulent activity immediately.