Credit card theft & fraud


Payment card fraud involves criminals stealing your payment cards, or obtaining your card or account details in order to steal money from your account or run up credit in your name. You will usually notice this by seeing unfamiliar transactions on your statements or suddenly seeing that you have exceeded your overdraft or credit.

Types of payment card fraud

Card-not-present (CNP) fraud: This occurs when fraudsters use stolen card details to buy goods or services online, by phone or mail order.

Counterfeit card fraud: This occurs when fraudsters make an illegal copy of your credit or debit card. Most of this fraud involves skimming, whereby your card’s magnetic stripe data (on the back of the card) is electronically copied by a criminal. Fraudsters often skim cards by using a device that is fitted to a cash machine or a PIN pad. This data is then transferred onto a fake magnetic stripe card and used overseas in a country that has not yet rolled out chip and PIN.

Lost and stolen card fraud: This occurs when your debit or credit card is physically stolen or lost and then used by a criminal, posing as you.

Card ID theft: This occurs when a criminal has managed to obtain details other than your credit or debit card, such as stolen personal information, to open or take over a card account in your name.

Mail non-receipt card fraud: This type of fraud occurs when your new card – being sent to you by your card company – is stolen by fraudsters. Those most at risk from this type of fraud are people with communal letterboxes, such as those living in flats and student accommodation or people who have moved and not redirected their post.

How does payment card fraud happen?

ATM (cash machine) fraud: A fraudster uses a device to capture your card information as you are withdrawing money from an ATM. The fraudster then uses the information to take money from your account in a shop, online or from an ATM.

Counterfeit cards: A fraudster counterfeits your bank card by using a device to capture the card and account information embedded in your card’s magnetic strip. This is often known as ‘skimming’. The fraudster then uses this information to carry out fraudulent transactions in countries where chip and PIN technology is not supported.

The fraudster may also use this information in transactions where the card does not have to be physically seen by the retailer or merchant. For example: when shopping online; buying goods by telephone or mail order; or using cardholder activated terminals, such as ticket machines.

Lost or stolen card fraud: In this case, fraudsters use your card before you are able to report it as lost or stolen. A new or replacement card may also be stolen before you receive it. For example: if you have moved address recently and not had your mail redirected; or if your mail is delivered to a communal mailbox.

Identity fraud: A fraudster may have stolen enough information about your identity and financial affairs to take over your account or to impersonate you. The fraudster will gain access to your account after getting through security online, at a bank branch or call centre, or by teaming up with someone inside the organisation that holds your account. If the fraudster can impersonate you, he or she may open accounts in your name.

What to do if you become a victim

Immediately report lost or stolen cards or suspected fraudulent use of your card to your card company. Similarly report lost or stolen chequebooks or any missing cheques. Banks and companies have 24-hour emergency numbers printed on account statements. Alternatively, use directory enquiries services.

Your bank or card company will be responsible for reporting the offence to the police. If the theft of your cards or cheques involved another crime – for example, if your bag was also stolen – it should still be reported to the police.

You can report the fraud directly to the National Fraud Reporting Centre if you do not have a relationship with the bank or card company that holds a fraudulent account in your name.

Keep a record of all communications.

Get a copy of your personal credit report from one of the credit reference agencies: Callcredit, Equifax or Experian.

Consider contacting CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered, CIFAS members will carry out extra checks whenever anyone applies for a financial service using your name and address.

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