£264m lost as fraudsters regain initiative by using plastic abroad

Credit and debit card fraud has risen sharply, according to the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs).

Between January and June this year, card criminals got away with up to £264m – a 26 per cent rise in fraud on the same six-month period last year.

Much of the increase, says Apacs, is down to fraudsters using stolen and counterfeit cards abroad. In total, the amount of money lost this way is up a staggering 126 per cent over the past year.

As a result, the latest figures reverse a drop in overall card fraud seen in 2005 and 2006. This brief hiatus, when criminals seemed to be on the back foot, followed the introduction of chip-and-pin technology and the ending of the necessity for cardholders to authorise transactions with signatures, which were vulnerable to forgery. The requirement for a pin number instead has made it almost impossible to use stolen cards in shops in the UK, so criminals have switched to using them abroad.

"These figures show how the fraudsters have changed tack," said Sandra Quinn of Apacs. A couple of years ago they were mainly stealing cards and card details for use in British shops and cash machines. But today they have been driven overseas, using fake magnetic-stripe cards, specifically in countries that have yet to upgrade to chip and pin."

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