In a controlled experiment at a London supermarket more than 50 per cent of fraudulent cards were accepted.
Richard Kemp, from the department of psychology at Westminster University, told the BPS conference that trying to match a photo to a stranger's face was "too difficult". In non experimental situations the detection of fraud would be even lower, he added.
Dr Kemp's team took over a supermarket staffed by six regular cashiers who were warned to be on the look-out for fraudulent cards. A group of 44 students acted as "shoppers" armed with four photo credit cards; one as the student looked, one with cosmetic changes, and two fraudulent cards of someone who resembled the student and one of someone totally different.
Overall more than half of fraudulent cards were accepted; including 64 per cent of the cards bearing a photo of someone who looked similar to the student, and 35 per cent of fraudulent cards with photos that looked different. Fourteen per cent of the valid cards were also rejected.
Credit card photographs are already offered by some banks and building societies who claim a reduction in fraud as a result.
The findings of the study cast doubt on this, said Dr Nicky Towell, one of the researchers. "There is a widely held assumption that photo credit cards are a cheap and effective way of stopping fraud. But this is not the case," she said.Reuse content