Online fraud on the up

While Chip-and-PIN is cutting fraud on the high street, thieves are increasingly turning to the Web to use stolen cards

Fraudsters spent £58m using stolen credit cards online in the first half of this year, and stole £14.5m from Internet banking accounts, according to new figures from payments association APACS.

Internet fraud now accounts for a quarter of all card losses, says the association.

Card not present fraud — made up of Internet, phone and mail-order crime — rose by 29 percent in the six months to June, APACS said. This is in contrast to all other forms of card fraud which have declined in the face of Chip-and-PIN.

Total plastic card fraud losses decreased by 13 percent in the six months to the end of June 2005 — from £252.6m to £219.4m — compared with the same period in 2004. Meanwhile Internet card fraud rose from £55m to £58m.

According to APACS, ID theft on card accounts added up to £16.1m between January and June this year — down from £19.2m in the same period last year. But online banking fraud losses have increased — reaching £14.5m in the six months to the end of June 2005 compared with £4m in the same time period last year.

Sandra Quinn, director of corporate communications for Apacs, said in a statement: "These latest online fraud losses are comparatively low considering the huge number of transactions now being carried out online and it is clear that fraudsters are having more success targeting cards than online bank accounts."

The payments association said consumers can minimise the chances of becoming a victim by keeping cards and card details as secure as possible and not letting their cards out of their sight. They should also sign up to the Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode schemes, both of which then make it more difficult for a fraudster to use their card details.

But research commissioned by Apacs shows that many UK consumers are not aware of even the basic online pitfalls. One in eight online shoppers has failed to log out when shopping online, leaving their financial details available to others. One in four does not check whether a Web site is safe and secure. And half of 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK do not know what phishing is.