Banks cut losses by tackling card fraud

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A DRIVE to cut plastic card fraud by forcing shops to ask for authorisation of smaller purchases helped to reduce bank and building society losses by pounds 35.2m to pounds 129.8m last year.

The authorisation campaign was directed at the most fraud-prone retail sectors, including DIY stores, electrical retailers and jewellers, where fraud on cards reported lost or stolen fell by 75 per cent. The success of targeting has led the card companies to step up requirements for authorisation in all types of retailing from 1 April.

A 'hot card' file introduced at the end of the year also allows banks to transmit details of lost and stolen cards to shops - initially to high-volume outlets such as petrol stations and supermarkets.

A campaign to identify postal areas where new cards are likely to be intercepted in the post has reduced this type of fraud by 39 per cent since 1992.

Banks have been using recorded delivery, independent couriers and collection direct from branches to tackle card thefts in the post. And there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of fraudulent cards recognised by shops, for which pounds 9m was paid in rewards.

Banks have adopted many recommendations of a 1991 Home Office crime prevention report. Richard Allen, chief executive of the Association of Payment Clearing Services, said lower fraud resulted from an all-round approach by banks, retailers, police and cardholders. A new anti-fraud campaign called Card Watch 1994 is being launched.

The Retail Consortium strongly supports the joint approach and the banks' strategy of lowering the limits at which authorisation is necessary.