Card fraud up 20% - you're at risk without even leaving the house

How fraudsters take your money without touching your cards

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You may think you're taking all the right steps to protect yourself from card fraud. You might guard your PIN at the cashpoint, keep your wallet in a bag worn across your body, and never let your card out of your sight. However, while these are sensible steps, they are only protecting you from the risk of having your card stolen, and a new study has highlighted that thieves don't need to snatch your card from you in order to take your money.

It's not just the theft of your card you need to guard against - it's stolen phones and tablets too. Matt Sanders, from Gocompare.com Money explains: "Fraudsters continually seek new ways to scam unsuspecting people. Our increasing use of technology to do everything from holding our address book and diary to online shopping and banking means that criminals are also logging-on to find new ways to steal our personal information and raid bank accounts. To thieves, the personal data held on a smartphone or tablet can be more valuable than the device itself."

This means we need to protect our devices, not only by keeping them close when we're out and about, but also by PIN protecting them - to make them less useful to thieves who steal them.

The other theft risk to be aware of is your documents. If you have thrown out statements, letters or receipts without shredding them, or have a driving licence taken from your wallet, then a thief can use this information to apply for cards and loans in your name.

Alternatively, they might steal your card while it is transit, and spend before you even know you card is missing.

Reaching into your home

Fraudsters also have a number of ways of reaching into your home. One common approach is to use a number of tricks to get you to reveal your card details. This includes phone and email scams where they contact you, pretending to be from a legitimate organisation, and asking you to 'verify your details'.

In some instances they will cut straight to the chase and get you to reveal your account number, password and PIN. In other cases, they will ask for personal information, and use this to take over control of your account or card.

Your computer use can also open you up to risks. Fraudsters may send an email with a link in it - this contains a virus, which downloads to your computer and will recognise whenever you access internet banking. It will then automatically send back any information it gleans to the fraudsters, who can raid your account.

Sanders says: "Social media sites can also provide a rich seam of personal information which can be used for identity theft and financial fraud. Social media platforms encourage users to provide as much personal information as possible, including users' full names, birth dates, relationship status – even pet names. Crooks can use this information to build up a personal profile and guess the answer to bank and payment card provider security questions. So, we would recommend users of these sites to use privacy settings to protect their personal information."

Protect yourself

Sanders suggests five vital steps to protecting yourself.

1. Protect your personal information
Never provide personal information in response to an unsolicited email, online or telephone request. Genuine banks and card providers never request information in this way.
Protect your personal information on social media, use privacy settings and don't accept friend requests from people you don't know.
Don't use the same passwords for social media sites and online banking.
Buy a shredder to dispose of card statements and other documents containing personal or financial information you no longer need.
Always PIN protect smartphones and other mobile devices.

2. Protect your PIN
Choose a strong PIN. Don't use obvious numbers, for example, the year you were born, your wedding anniversary, telephone or house number.
Memorise your PIN – don't write it down or disclose it to anyone else.
Don't use the same PIN for all your payment cards.
When using an ATM or other card reader always shield your PIN with your hand.

3. Take online safety measures
Regularly update your computer's firewall or antivirus software.
When shopping online, always look carefully at the site for secure transaction symbols. The web address should start 'https' and the page should display the secure payment 'lock' logo.
Always log-off from a site once you've completed a transaction.

4. Regularly review card and bank statements
Check statements on a regular basis and look out for unusual or unauthorised transactions, and contact your card provider immediately if you suspect fraud.

5. Pay attention to card delivery
Note when you should be receiving a new payment card. If it doesn't arrive when you expect it, contact the card provider as soon as possible.

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