Credit Card Fraud – How do you avoid it?

Although it’s never been safer to use your credit card online or when you’re out shopping, the worry of card fraud and identity theft is still one that concerns many people. So what are the main types of fraud, and how do you avoid becoming a victim?

Identity theft

This type of credit card fraud is on the rise but its one that with a few simple steps can be easily avoided. Identity theft occurs when your personal details are taken without your knowledge and then used to take out credit cards or loans. The consequences of identity theft can be considerable, and often people don’t realise until it’s too late that they have been the victim of this type of crime. However, by making sure that you keep your personal details safe, you can make life far more difficult for the criminals. For example, a bank will never email you to ‘confirm your account details’. This is a technique used by criminals known as ‘phishing’ and is simply a way to gather account details, PIN numbers and other information that enables them to clone your card or access your account.

Fraudsters may contact you by telephone pretending to be a company or service that you regularly deal with, and try to manipulate you into divulging confidential information by appearing to know you, or to have information about you already on file.

Criminals will often be extremely persistent in building up a profile of you gathering information from several sources before acting to steal your identity. If you lose your wallet or purse and immediately cancel your credit cards, that’s only a first step. What other information have you lost that could be useful to a fraudster? Have you lost your driving license with your Date of Birth and address on?

If you throw your paper rubbish in the bin or recycling box, make sure that nobody can read your personal information from discarded statements or receipts by shredding the document first. (We have separate section on Identity Theft)

Card-not-present (CNP) fraud

CNP fraud is the largest type of card crime in the UK, and occurs when an alleged cardholder makes a purchase over the phone or online. Because you are not present during a transaction, it is impossible for the vendor to physically check the authenticity of the card details. The habit of ‘dumpster-diving’ or going through someone’s rubbish to get card details leaves consumers wide open to this type of fraud so again, think before you bin that statement. Credit card merchant services providers are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to combat CNP fraud, this is why you’re often asked for your Post Code when making a CNP transaction.


This is a relatively new concept, and very high tech. Using a computer virus, a fraudster redirects your attempt to log into your online banking portal to a ‘dummy’ website that will look exactly like your regular bank’s website. To avoid this, ensure that the site you are visiting is authentic and is security protected.

An ‘https’ suffix at the beginning of the URL address denotes a secure site, but also check that the locked padlock in the bottom right hand corner of your screen is also visible. Make sure you’re familiar with the correct website address (URL) of your bank’s online banking portal, and even if you usually navigate to the site via your own saved ‘favourite’ bookmark check that the URL is correct before entering any information or trying to log on.


Cloning or counterfeiting is another area of credit card fraud that is on the rise. Details from an authentic card can be ‘skimmed’ using sophisticated equipment at ATMs and cash machines and then a ‘clone’ card produced, or the details used for CNP theft. If you suspect that an ATM has been tampered with (scratches around the edges or any unusual pieces of equipment that seem out of place), do not use the machine and inform the bank immediately.

Mail theft

This might seem pretty ‘old school’ compared to pharming or phishing, but straightforward theft is still one of the largest causes of credit card fraud in the UK. If you are expecting a replacement card in the post and it doesn’t arrive, get in touch with your bank at the earliest opportunity. The faster you can inform them of the problem, the faster they can do something about it and stop your card from being used by thieves.

Remember: –

Although we’re trying to be proactive in informing you of the dangers of credit card fraud, using your credit card to shop online is still very safe in the UK. This is because under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, if you’re using your credit card within its Terms and Conditions and a fraud occurs, you won’t be held liable. It is very important however if you think your credit or debit card are lost, or some of your personal details or PIN have fallen into the wrong hands, that you telephone your card issuer IMMEDIATELY and let them know. Ask for a reference number for the call so that you can prove later that you did inform them of the problem.

Credit Card Fraud – Further reading:-

There’s a lot of good advice online on these issues.

UK Government Home Office Identity Theft Website

Financial Fraud Action UK (A site co-ordinated by the Financial Services Industry to prevent fraud)

Which? Guide to credit card fraud

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