"If you wait for a monthly statement and you throw it in your desk, and you don't look at it for another month, the thief is going to be two months ahead of you and that's going to be way too late to stop things," Sullivan said.
And the next step in high-tech could make life even easier for crooks. The technology is already in the Exxon Mobile Speedpass used by millions to easily charge gas. It contains a tiny chip, called an RFID, that is now being added to everything from credit cards to passports. The RFID or Radio Frequency Identification chip is activated by a signal -- from the gas pump. But Johns Hopkins professor Avi Rubin and his graduate students uncovered a security flaw.
"I don't think the thieves are happy that we've released our research results," Rubin said.
Rubin demonstrated those results at the offices of his company, Independent Security Evaluators. A colleague showed us how a laptop equipped with a special receiver can be hidden away in a bag for easy use. Then all it takes is a stroll down the street to get the laptop within about 6 inches of a Speedpass in a passerby's pocket. In just a quarter of a second the laptop grabs the Speedpass account information -- like an electronic pickpocket.
"It is and the interesting thing about an electronic pickpocket is you don't even have to touch the person," Rubin said.
The data is encrypted, but Rubin's team found that it's an easy code to break. Their computers needed about 25 minutes to do the job.
At an Exxon station they fill up on gas, then use their copy of the Speedpass to pay -- and even load up on junk food all on what would be the unsuspecting victim's dime. Exxon Mobile says Speedpass is secure and that no crooks have done this yet. And if they did its customers wouldn't have to pay.
"The bottom line is that people always underestimate the sophistication of the bad guys," Rubin said.
And Rubin warns that as this new technology spreads to everything from regular credit cards to passports -- all our information could be at risk unless security is beefed up. The industry says the move is well under way in its latest technology.
You can now go to www.annualcreditreport.com for a free look at your credit report-- and make sure there are no strange accounts.
Ignore "phishing" emails and phone calls pretending to be from your bank or credit card company and asking for your account information
Call 888-5-OPTOUT to register for the credit card version of the "do not call" list.
You'll then stop getting most of that pre-approved credit card junk mail.
Buy a shredder to destroy any documents with personal information.