Credit card fraud could be on the rise


Levels of fraud, including credit card misuse and the fraudulent use of identity details, have risen over the past 12 months, according to the latest report from CIFAS, a nonprofit membership organisation focused on fraud prevention. Figures show that the overall level of fraud has risen by 9%, while fraudulent use of a victim's credit card, bank account or mobile phone account has increased by almost one-fifth. The findings highlight the importance of keeping credit card and other personal details secure.

Overall fraud up by 9%
CIFAS members reported more than 236,500 instances of fraud in 2011 -- the highest level ever recorded. More than 113,000 cases (48% of all frauds) involved identity fraud, which has increased by 10% since

The figures also show that facility takeover fraud has increased by 18%. This type of fraud occurs when a criminal gains access to a person's account, such as a credit card or bank account, and uses it for fraudulent purposes. Instances of facility takeover fraud have become increasingly common, soaring by nearly 300% in the space of just five years.

Trends linked to economic climate
Experts say the rising levels of fraud reflect the ongoing economic uncertainty in the UK. They also warn that, as austerity measures affect people's financial circumstances, economic crime will continue to be a threat.

"It is vitally important to remember that fraud and economic crime are offences with a range of motivations," said Richard Hurley, communications manager at CIFAS. "Many of these frauds will undoubtedly be committed by organised criminal elements, but many will also be committed by people who seemingly feel that their circumstances leave them no choice."

Hurley also emphasised the importance of protecting personal data.

"It is obvious that fraud relating to personal data is an immense criminal trade so, fundamentally, it's time for every one of us to start treating data in the same way that we would guard a prized possession -- as something to be secured and protected without complacency," Hurley said.

Brits urged to keep identities safe
According to CIFAS, consumers can take a number of steps to protect their identity, including limiting the amount of information they share on social networking websites and entering personal details only into secure websites that display a closed padlock symbol and have a URL starting with "https." People should also be wary of giving out bank account or credit card details in response to scam or "phishing" emails, which direct people to websites that look legitimate but are actually designed to steal identities.

It is also advisable to avoid typing financial information, including credit card details, into websites when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or smartphones, and to remember to sign out of online banking sites.

See related: UK targeted by bank-robbing malware; Why you should never reuse credit card PINs

Published: 1 February 2012