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 Inside Out - East: Monday July 7, 2003


A pile of fake credit cards
Could you spot a cloned card?

Credit card fraud is a huge problem and it's getting worse. But it's not card theft that poses the greatest problem - it's card cloning.

Inside Out follows the Bedfordshire Police to find out how they are tackling the problem.

A fraudulent card transaction takes place every eight seconds and cloning is the biggest type of credit card fraud.

Last year card fraud losses totalled £424.6 million and the problem is getting worse.

Spending spree

Cloning a credit card takes seconds. Whilst a card is being swiped for payment - dishonest staff can swipe the card details which are downloaded on computer.

A duplicate card is made and until your next credit card statement arrives to alert you - the cloner can spend at will.

Guy Willis
Cloners spent £1,200 on Guy Willis' credit card

Restaurants provide card cloners with the best opportunities to commit fraud as it is commonplace for credit cards to be taken away from the table to be swiped.

This is exactly what happened to Guy Willis from Bedford.

Guy had been for a business lunch and it wasn't until he was later contacted by the police, that Guy realised a copy of his card had been made.

"I handed over my card to pay and I had no idea at all that this had happened," explains Guy.

With time on their side, the cloners spent £1,200 on the copied card. Guy is now extra vigilant where is credit card is concerned.

"I never let my card out of my sight," says Guy. "In restaurants I get up and follow my card."

Signature spotting


Theft of the card:
It's physically stolen from your bag or wallet, or home, and an impostor pretends to be you to obtain goods or services.

Cloning (also called 'skimming'):
An employee of a shop, petrol station, or restaurant puts your card into an electronic reading device and steals your card details.

Card-not-present fraud:
Details may be obtained from card theft, skimming or going through someone's receipts, or copying down details during a transaction. Goods or services are fraudulently obtained by buying over the phone, internet, from mail order or fax.

To prevent card fraud:
Keep your cards and cheque books safe, and do not let anyone know your PIN numbers even if they say they're from the police or the credit card company.

When paying by card, don't let it out of your sight.

Only use secure, well-known internet sites when shopping online.

Always check bank and credit card statements carefully, and query anything you don't recognise immediately.

Be careful when disposing of bank statements and credit card receipts. Criminals search dustbins for these.

If you think your card is stolen or copied:
Call your card issuer immediately.

Your card will be cancelled by the issuer. If you still have it in your possession, remember not to use it again.

Check with a credit reference agency such as Experian or Equifax to make sure no fraudulent applications for credit have been made in your name.

At the present time, it is only a signature that proves ownership of a credit card. Spotting a stolen or copied card therefore falls to shop staff and their vigilance.

Inside Out put this vigilance to the test.

Inside Out presenter Nick Lawrence armed with a hidden camera and his wife's credit card pays a visit to three different retailers.

A petrol station, a DIY store and an electrical superstore are put to the test.

Not only do the assistants fail to spot that Nick's signature does not match that on the card - they also fail to notice that Nick is not a woman!

If retailers are failing to check simple card details such as name and signature, there is little hope they will be able to identify a copied card.

Cracking down

Card cloning may be happening at a local level, but this is by no means a small time operation.

"This is highly organised crime," explains DC Simon Russen of Bedfordshire Police's Fraud Squad.

"It is such an easy way for criminals to make money which they use to fund other crime. Terrorism, immigration - you name it."

Simon would like so see stiffer sentences introduced to help the battle against card crime.

The credit card companies are also involved in the battle against fraud.

Barclaycard headquaters are currently running chip and PIN trials in Northampton.

Chips with everything

The chip and PIN credit cards will require a PIN number to activate a transaction, making card cloning near impossible.

"Chip and PIN is the biggest change in retail since decimalisation," says Ian Spencer, Head of Barclaycard Northampton.

"It will wipe out 50% of card fraud."

Without the introduction of chip and PIN cards, it is estimated that card losses would climb to a billion pounds by the year 2010.

It will be a few years before all credit cards use the chip and PIN system, so until then, vigilance is the only defence.

A credit card is worth thousands of pounds to criminals - and you foot the bill. So next time you are about to let your card out of your sight, think twice - it could be the most expensive purchase of your life.

See also ...

BBC: News - Anti-fraud credit card trials
BBC: Crimewatch - Card fraud

On the rest of the web
CIFAS - Fraud prevention
Chip and PIN programme
Card Watch

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Marcus West
I work at a branch of Dixons and I managed to catch around 8 cloned cards last year and about 4 this year.

Steven Reynolds
the sooner we have id cards the better to prevent criminals taking advantage of honest people, only the dishonest have something to hide and are against any form of id.

D Wilkinson
the last 4 numbers of credit card swiped transactions should be phoned through by the customer now that mobiles are so widely used.

Kerel Stirrup
It seems that the criminals who commit these and other crimes manage to find a way around the system and are increasingly using technology themselves to their advantage. It may take some time but I wonder if or, if fact, when the criminals find a way around the chip and PIN credit card activation process.