Being a victim of credit card fraud is frustrating and can cause the victim a great deal of anxiety. Fortunately for credit card holders in the UK, they are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (amended 2006). Any misuse of the card, unless deliberately criminal on the part of the cardholder, must be refunded by the merchant or card issuer. But cardholders can take steps to reduce the risk of their credit card details being used fraudulently.
Recent figures from the UK Cards Association show that, in 2009, fraud on debit and credit cards fell by more than a quarter to £440.3 million. According to Ian Spencer, head of Barclaycard Northampton, this decline is on account of the introduction of chip and PIN cards.
"Chip and PIN is the biggest change in retail since decimalisation," says Spencer, "it will wipe out 50% of card fraud."
The best defence against traditional theft and card skimming is to treat each card as if it actually is the thousands of pounds that could be taken out with it: don’t let it out of your sight, don’t trust anybody with it and avoid ATMs or credit/debit card machines that look suspicious.
Unfortunately, the UK Cards Association figures also show that the total amount of online banking losses reached £59.7 million, which is 14% more than in 2008. When a criminal makes a credit card purchase over the internet, by phone or mail order, the retailer doesn’t actually have to see the card. That’s why it’s called card-not-present (CNP) fraud. Criminals don’t need to steal a card to get hold of the credit card number, expiration date and security code. They can copy this information from discarded receipts or from the actual card when the owner temporarily lost sight of it.
Protect your details
The importance of protecting the information on your card can’t be emphasized enough. Waiters could be jotting down the details if a customer decides to leave his card behind the bar, and strangers could take pictures with their mobile phone or camera when cardholders don’t shield their credit card number when taking out the card in public. To reduce the risks of online shopping, customers should always make sure a page is secure before entering their details online. Cardholders should never give their details to someone that calls them up and claims to work for the bank, nor lend their card to anyone else. Ideally, credit cards are carried on the body but separate from your wallet. To prevent card issuers from sending mail with your details to an address where you don’t live anymore, notify all your card issuers and banks of your change of address in advance.
In order to be able to act quickly in case a card gets stolen, it’s a good idea to keep an up to date list in a secure place with the account numbers, expiration dates, phone numbers and addresses of the bank that has issued the cards.
In the unfortunate events of unfamiliar charges showing up on your credit card bill or your wallet getting stolen, you should immediately call the company that issued the credit card to report the theft. You should also inform the three national credit-reporting agencies as soon as possible, and ask them to attach a fraud alert to all your cards. The agencies are Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (formerly TRW)(1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-800-680-7289). After informing these bodies, you should report the crime to the police.
These measures will make you a less likely victim of fraud, but remember that, even if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world. You should not let fraud figures scare you away from using credit cards because you are protected by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and, if something goes wrong, the card issuer will have to refund you.
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