Plastic card fraud up 40% from a year ago


Plastic card fraud increases 40%The onset of the economic crisis in the UK encouraged many observers to predict a widespread surge in crime throughout the country. Although this forecast has not truly materialised, a new report has suggested that one area -- credit card fraud -- should still be viewed as a major threat to Britons.

Plastic card fraud on the rise
According to the annual British Crime Survey (BCS), Britons are three times more likely to be targeted by credit card fraudsters than have their homes burgled. The study revealed that 6.4% of cardholders were the victims of this type of crime in 2008-09, compared with a figure of 4.7% for the previous year. However, the report does not include the specific number of people who have fallen prey to plastic card fraud, leading the Times to describe it as the "hidden crime." Using population figures, the newspaper suggested that the number of victims in England and Wales reached 2.41 million in the latest BCS research, representing a rise of over 40% from the 2007-08 total of 1.77 million. Although the BCS suggests that there were 10.6m instances of plastic card fraud, the Times claimed that the real figure could be closer to 13m.

Property crime 'overlooked'
Marian Fitzgerald, visiting professor of criminology at Kent University, explained that the study also overlooked the increase in property crime, such as identity theft, which is often carried out with the help of stolen credit card details.

"It has been ignored as politicians insist that the public are safer and keep saying property crime has been going down," she told the newspaper. "If they did count it and include it in the figures, it would make property crime figures much, much higher than the message they were giving out that property crime was falling."

More BCS card fraud findings
The BCS, which involved interviewing more than 40,000 people aged 16 or over about their experiences of crime, also found that income is strongly linked with the chance of suffering credit card fraud. Households earning in excess of £50,000 per year were discovered to be almost twice as likely to fall prey to fraudsters than those earning less than £10,000. In addition, the 45 to 54 age group was found to be more vulnerable than Britons aged between 16 and 24 or over 75.

How can I protect myself?
With this in mind, credit card holders must take a responsible approach to the security of their accounts. Simple tips such as not informing anyone of passwords and concealing pin numbers during a cash withdrawal are certainly crucial. Shredding and disposing of credit card statements is also recommended, while anyone using their cards online should have appropriate anti-virus software in place to alert them of any potential 'phishing' websites before entering their details.

Published: 26 May 2010