How to beat card fraudsters

Card fraud is a boom industry, with recent research showing that one in three British consumers, about 14.6 million people, has been successfully targeted by plastic fraudsters in the past five years.

Meanwhile, despite industry initiatives such as chip and PIN, latest figures show that credit and debit card fraudsters stole more than £365 million of our money in 2010. What can you do to keep card fraud at bay?

Chip and PIN came into force in the UK five years ago last month. But while the scheme has been effective when it comes to face-to-face fraud, it does not protect you from fraudulent attacks where cards are used to pay over the phone or online.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to make life much harder for the unscrupulous criminals trying to get their hands on your hard-earned cash.

How to protect yourself
One of the reasons it can be hard to protect yourself against card fraud is that criminals are constantly coming up with new scams.

Officers from the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), for example, have recently noticed a number of card skimming devices, which capture credit and debit card details, being placed on payment keypads at ticket machines, particularly in London.

The DCPCU has been working with the British Transport Police and Transport for London to prevent more consumers falling victim to crime of this kind when traveling by rail.

Detective chief inspector Paul Barnard, who heads up the DCPCU, said: "We urge travellers to stay on their guard to help prevent themselves from being scammed."

He advises cardholders to minimise the chances of being caught out by avoiding ticket machines that appear unusual, using their free hands to shield the keypad when entering their PINs and cancelling the transaction if someone starts crowding or watching them.

It is sensible to follow the same steps when using cash machines as these can also sometimes be fitted with card skimming devices.

When it comes to other types of fraud, ways to beat the criminals include trying not to let your card out of your sight when paying in a shop or restaurant, never keeping a reminder of your PIN with your card and never providing your card details or personal information in response to cold calls or unsolicited e-mails.

It is also a good idea to check your bank statements thoroughly for any unfamiliar transactions and to avoid giving too much information away on social networks as fraudsters trawl these sites looking for useful information.

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