UK payments body Apacs is warning of a new threat to credit card security as sophisticated criminal gangs use the Internet to create multiple counterfeit cards for simultaneous use in foreign countries.
Card fraud abroad is rising dramatically, especially in Spain, France and the US, with tourists seen as a soft target for pickpockets and thieves. But it’s not just holidaymakers’ cards that are being hit, says Apacs. Those at home in the UK are increasingly finding that their card details are going overseas without them.
In fact fraud losses on UK cards used abroad by criminals are up by 34% costing £138m last year, with the biggest losses occurring in Europe, £77 million (up 36%).
Apacs says sophisticated criminal networks involving staff at local petrol stations, shops or restaurants are skimming customer cards. In a new trend, the details are being sent abroad via the Internet where counterfeit cards are created and used to buy goods in several different countries simultaneously within hours.
A police unit chiefly funded by Apacs has been set up as a two-year pilot to fight organised card criminals and since its inception in April 2002 has cracked several international counterfeiting groups says the payments body.
But the biggest defence against card counterfeiting lies in the introduction of highly secure chip cards, says Apacs. By 2005, every UK cardholder will be using one alongside a PIN (personal identification number) to identify themselves instead of a signature. This system is expected to more than halve predicted fraud losses in the UK.