How to guard against credit card fraud

Crooks are getting away with £5 billion a year… Don’t let it be your money

Modern payment terminal and credit cards

Nearly £700 million was stolen from debit and credit cards in 2018, up by nearly a fifth on the year before and the figure is still rising. Those are the official figures. But one recent survey calculated that the total was closer to £5 billion and the average loss almost £850.

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Most frauds are due to card details being stolen in large-scale data breaches. Marriott Hotels lost card details of 100 million users in 2018.

Carphone Warehouse had nearly six million debit- and credit card details stolen in the same year. It claimed none were actually compromised but credit-card providers recalled the cards involved anyway.

A recent survey found that one in five of us has had a card replaced by our provider in the past 12 months, usually because of a suspected data loss. Card details are also stolen on a micro scale. ATM data thefts are growing. Secret equipment may be fitted by criminals to record our transaction when we take out cash.

Or thieves may be nearby, watching as we insert our card and enter a Pin. Shielding the card and Pin and using machines inside banks can help defeat them.

When shopping online, it’s very risky to enter credit-card details on an unfamiliar website. Only do so if there is a padlock symbol to the left of the URL and the address itself starts https:// – click in the address bar to check.

Never shop online using public wi-fi as your details can be harvested.

Check your card statement for unusual or unrecognised items – some thefts are never noticed because they take small amounts from millions of people. If you do have money stolen from your credit card the banks must refund you at once thanks to tough EU rules. Only then can it enquire how it happened. Some banks may have to be reminded of that.

Only in the most extreme cases of collusion or gross negligence will it take the money back.

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Ultimately, of course, we all pay for the stolen money in higher fees and charges – the average APR on credit cards has risen steadily from 16 per cent in 2006 to nearly 25 per cent now.