With 162.6 million credit and debit cards in issue in the UK in 2009 (The UK Cards Association) you may be surprised to hear that overall instances of card fraud are actually decreasing. Card fraud losses fell a staggering 28% from 2008 to 2009 (Financial Fraud Action (FFA). This fall is due to the many security enhancements that have been undertaken since the original introduction of chip and PIN.
However, there has been a substantial increase in fraud in transactions that do not fall under chip and PIN protection. Most noticeable of these is on-line shopping. When purchasing goods on a website we don't have the same level of protection and fraudsters are ready to exploit this by adopting techniques to steal card details and use them to commit fraud.
Though there have been many improvements made by on-line retailers and banks to ensure our details are kept safe, there are a few key steps we as consumers can undertake to help make sure we do not fall victim to payment card fraud.
1. Protect your PC
Maintain your on-line safety by protecting your PC against threats from hackers, viruses and other risks. To do this you need to:
* Install or enable a firewall if you have not already done so.
* Install and regularly update anti-virus software.
* Delete emails that look like spam or that have been sent from an unknown source, especially if they come with an attachment.
* Encrypt your wireless network.
* Check your operating system (e.g. Windows ) to make sure it is automatically downloading
2. Check the security of websites
Before making a purchase or entering personal details on a website, always check for signs that this information is being handled in a secure way. In other words, that the data being sent is being encrypted so that identity thieves will find it hard to obtain and use your personal information.
You can check this by looking at the web address to make sure it starts with "https". The additional "s" stands for secure.
Also look for an icon of a small locked padlock in the window frame of the browser. If the padlock image appears within the web page itself it could indicate a fraudster is trying to fool you by copying the padlock image.
If you have not purchased from a store before, check on-line to see if there are customer complaints. All you need to do is carry out a quick search with the website name and the word 'scam' added and see what results Google turns up.
3. Register your cards
By registering your cards with either MasterCard SecureCode or Verified by Visa you add an extra layer of protection to your on-line purchases. If you sign up to this service you are required to enter an additional password when you make a purchase from a participating internet retailer.
4. Log off
It's all too simple to forget to log out of a website once you have finished shopping or completed on-line banking tasks. It is important that you actually "sign out" or "log out" of the site you are in before entering another web address or closing the browser, or else your details could be at risk.
If you are unlucky enough to be a victim of on-line card fraud you should immediately contact the retailer or organisation with details of the security breach They should have measures in place for investigating your claim and rectifying the problem. In serious instances of payment card data compromise call the police. They may even bring in qualified forensic investigators (QFI) to investigate security breaches involving important card holder data and to oversee remedial efforts following credit card fraud.