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If you need a reason to obsessively monitor your credit card activity, here you go: Someone allegedly stole a Virginia woman’s credit cards and spent $31,000 at various Best Buy stores within two hours, reports Fox 5 in Washington, D.C. After spending thousands of dollars at two stores June 21, the woman’s card was declined after the second attempted transaction at the third Best Buy that day. By then, the thieves had acquired $31,734.78 in merchandise.

People in the game of credit card fraud often use others’ money at electronics stores, where they can buy expensive items like tablets and laptops and resell the gadgets for cash.

It all started with a run-in at T.J. Maxx. Literally. As the alleged victim Nancy Albany explained to local reporters, a man bumped his cart into hers at a D.C.-area T.J. Maxx, and as that happened, a nearby woman asked for her help reading a price tag. Albany believes the man took her wallet while she was focused on the tag. According to the activity on her credit card statements, the shopping spree unfolded while she was still in the store.

She said she had zero balances on her four credit cards before the spree. Local authorities launched an investigation, but no suspects had been identified or arrested days after the incident.

Credit card users can’t legally be held liable for fraudulent credit card purchases in excess of $50, but even if you don’t have to pay, you don’t want anyone to rack up credit card debt in your name. Depending on how long it goes undetected, you may see damage to your credit standing as a result of fraud (high credit card balances and missed payments are credit killers), so it’s a good idea to make a habit of checking credit card activity on a regular basis. You should care as much about your credit health as you do about the balance of your bank account, and using tools like those available through Credit.com, you can get monthly updates on your credit history and scores for free.

Of course, checking your transactions every hour while you’re shopping is impractical. In this situation, spending alerts would have probably helped the consumer and law enforcement identify the fraud earlier. Most banks and card issuers offer transactional monitoring, and you can set up text message or email alerts for purchases exceeding certain amount.

More on Identity Theft:

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