Vigilance urged to halt card fraud

FRAUD involving credit, debit and cash cards tumbled by 25 per cent in 1994, with losses of £96m compared with £130m the year before, according to figures out last week. But the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs), representing card issuers, said more vigilance was needed to cut fraud even further.

The main factor behind the drop was the increase in authorisations at point of sale. Cards are passed through the special machines in shops much more often than before. Another reason for the fall was the increased security in delivery of new cards to users. The use of couriers, recorded delivery and collection at post offices helped to shave nearly £6m off the amount lost the previous year.

Richard Allen, chief executive of Apacs, said: "This does not mean we can relax our efforts. We must maintain the pressure and with the help of our partners - retailers, police and the general public - we are confident we can maintain this trend."

However, card security still draws criticism. Alexis Rowell, a journalist with the BBC4 Today programme, told this story: "I was catching the Tube at one of the unmanned stations on the outskirts of London when I was mugged. A man pressed a knife against me and demanded my money and credit cards. I gave them to him.

"He then demanded to know my personal identification number, saying that if I gave him a false one he would come round to my house and kill me. So I told him the number, and he ran off."

Mr Rowell said he reported the robbery to the police and his card issuers within an hour and his cards were cancelled. Yet he claims the robber was still able to withdraw £500 from his account in the subsequent 24 hours. "Obviously, I was covered and won't have to pay for the loss," he commented, "but I am concerned that the security of my cards is such that it takes so long to put a stop on them."

An Apacs spokesman said: "The important thing is that he won't lose anything. And he was absolutely right to give the PIN number to the robber - his safety is much more important than the money involved.

"This should not have happened. All card machines are supposed to be automatically blocked from the minute a theft is reported."

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