It might feel protected tucked in your back pocket or purse, but your credit card is being hotly pursued by hackers all over the world.

It might feel protected tucked in your back pocket or purse, but your credit card is being hotly pursued by hackers all over the world.

Reports of account security breaches happen daily, but with a hacking identified at Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails, the Downtown eatery has become a poster child for the issue. Police say anyone who used a card there in July or August should contact their card companies to have a new card issued.

The hackers found and exploited a weak spot in the restaurant's computer defenses, detective Wyatt Wilson of the Columbus police fraud/forgery unit told The Dispatch. The hackers have been traced overseas, Wilson said, adding that Tip Top employees were not involved.

Since then, an independent IT company overhauled the system, replacing the hard drive and installing preventative malware, among other things - work that cost more than $2,000, said Tim Lessner, a Tip Top owner.

"Tip Top feels terrible that this happened," he said. "We're absolutely a victim in this."

Since news reports of the security breach came out a few weeks ago, Tip Top's staff has fielded plenty of calls from patrons who visited the restaurant recently and are worried about their security. Lessner wants to remind them that he had the problem corrected after it was identified in late August.

"If you went to Tip Top last week and your credit card was [since found to be] compromised, it wasn't us," said Lessner, who called hackers' abilities "scary."

Staying safe

For security reasons, card companies don't share their techniques for detecting fraud. Generally, though, they develop an idea of your regular spending habits - the number of times you usually get gas in a week, how much you spend on an average day - and watch for deviations from that spending pattern, according to Creditcards.com zzz.

"Every American Express transaction goes through a fraud screen, and often we are able to detect problems even before a cardmember is aware of it," American Express representative Kimberly Ford wrote in an e-mail.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Do:

Sign your cards.

Carry your cards in a pouch different than your wallet.

Maintain a list of card account numbers, expiration dates and the contact info for each company. Keep it secure.

Accumulate receipts and "balance" them with statements; report questionable charges quickly.

Let card issuers know before you take a big trip - if charges suddenly pop up from a coffee shop across the country, it'll raise a red flag.

Notify card companies as soon as you know you're changing addresses.

Don't:

Lend anyone your card or leave it lying around.

Sign the "customer copy" receipt. And when you sign a store copy, draw a line through any blank spaces (like the "tip" line) above the total.

Share your account number over the phone unless you're confident the company can be trusted. Use the Better Business Bureau to check out a company first.

Source: Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection site