FORT MYERS, Fla. - Stories of credit card theft is nothing new in the U.S. but it's not the type of crime you hear about as much overseas. The reason is that the U.S. makes it easier for cyber criminals to get their hands on our information.
Gone are the days of writing checks and carrying cash. Today, with a quick swipe, we can purchase just about everything. No need for a pin number or sometimes even a signature. It's why more than 110 million people used their credit and debit cards at Target during the holiday shopping season. It's also why those 110 million people are at risk for identity theft.
"The U.S. is a target because we still use the older technology," said computer security expert John Benkert from CPR Tools in LaBelle.
Benkert says it's the magnetic strip on the back of our cards that leaves shoppers vulnerable.
"The data is all there, it's out in the clear," explained Benkert. "You and I can buy a card reader and a card maker on the web for $50 and we can write all the cards we want."
For the past two decades shoppers in Canada and most European countries have been using credit cards with encrypted microchips and pin numbers. In that time, security experts say fraud has dropped in those countries and has increased in the U.S.
In order to make shopping safer, you need three different industries to work together: retailers, banks and credit card companies which means safer plastic may take awhile.
Visa and Mastercard have told retailers if they don't adopt new cards and terminals by 2015, then the credit card companies won't help in fraud cases.
Target's chief financial officer says the retailer will update it's systems to allow them to use the chip and pin technology and the National Association of Retailers supports switching to the new system.
Some banks do offer cards with chips already, but experts say less than two percent of us shoppers use them.
It would also be a substantial cost to replace all credit cards. It could cost upwards of eight billion dollars to upgrade microchips and pins and even then it's not 100 percent secure.
"Once everybody goes to that, the bad guys are going to find a way to go to that as well..... if a human can invent it then a human can figure out a way to get around it," said Benkert.
Lawmakers are also getting in the fight to make shopping safer. Florida Senator Bill Nelson is sponsoring legislation that would require the Federal Trade Commission to set security standards for companies to protect the personal data of customers.
But for now, the only way to keep your information out of hackers hands while shopping, is to pay cash.