Fraudsters net £216m from debit and credit card cons

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Fraud losses on UK cards have jumped by almost one fifth year-on-year as improvements in technology are driving criminals to target consumers directly with deception crimes.

Some £216.1m worth of frauds were committed on credit and debit cards in the first six months of this year, showing a 17 per cent rise compared with the first half of 2012 as conmen turn their attentions to duping card holders themselves, according to Financial Fraud Action UK, which prevents crime on behalf of the financial services industry.

The industry body said that improvements to card security such as Chip and Pin and better fraud detection by banks such as monitoring unusual spending have prompted a growth in more old-fashioned attempts to trick people into simply handing over their personal details.

Within the half-yearly total, card identity theft rose by almost one quarter (24 per cent) compared with the same period a year ago, with £18.1m worth of losses due to this type of crime.

Types of fraud where the card holder is not present, such as when purchases are made over the phone, online or by mail order, also saw a 23 per cent year-on-year rise, with £142m worth of losses recorded.

One example of the growth in con tricks to get hold of people’s card details is a telephone scam called “vishing”, which involves someone posing as a bank fraud investigation officer or a police officer in order to get their victim to hand over information such as their Pin number and date of birth.

Sometimes, the conman will ask the victim to call the bank back to check that the call is authentic. But the criminal does not put 
the phone down at their end, meaning that the landline is kept open and the victim wrongly thinks they are speaking to their bank.

Another similar fraud involves the criminal posing on the phone as a bank to say that someone’s card is due to expire or has been subject to fraud and needs replacing. The victim is asked to key in their Pin number on their phone keypad, enabling the fraudster to decipher the Pin number from the audio tones.

Couriers will often be sent to the victim’s home to pick up the card on the basis that it is being returned to the bank. But the card is delivered to the criminal who can use it along with the victim’s Pin to commit identity fraud or go on a spending spree.

Despite the recent upturn in frauds, card fraud losses are still almost one third lower that a peak of £304.2m seen in the first half of 2008.