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The BBC's Chris A'Court
"Some retailers have started to blank out some of the card digits on receipts - a simple but effective foil to fraudsters."
 real 28k

Monday, 5 March, 2001, 18:10 GMT
Credit card receipt warning
Credit card details on receipts prove to be problematic for retailers and customers alike.
Many receipts include all the details fraudsters need
By the BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme.

Credit card fraud in the UK in 2000 was up by 50% to a staggering 300m.

All the details a criminal would need, to use someone's identity to buy things over the phone can be found on a credit card receipt.

One contributory factor is that major retailers have failed to adopt simple security measures.

If a credit card is stolen it is reasonable to suspect that someone other than the official cardholder could use it and usually action is taken to prevent this.

However, this kind of crime is not expected when the card is still in the cardholder's possession.

Esso service stations are one of many petrol retailers to print credit card details on their receipts.
Esso claims that all numbers must appear

One Money Box listener, Hilary, was shocked to find that her credit card bill showed that mobile phone airtime had been purchased on her account.

After a great deal of difficulty trying to prove that she had not made the transaction, she was told that all the details needed could have been gathered from a discarded till receipt.

"The actual receipt itself prints in full the whole number and the expiry date so that information is there for anybody to see."

Foiling the fraudsters

Some retailers have started to blank out some of the card digits on receipts - a simple but effective foil to fraudsters.

Instead of the full credit card number a series of asterisks appear, then if a receipt gets into the wrong hands the person trying to criminally exploit it does not have all the crucial information.

However, many big retailers are still not adopting this type of security.

"Only relatively recently did the card companies change their standards so that we were allowed not to print out all the numbers," explains David Smith from the British Retail Consortium.

"However, it costs an awful lot of money to change till point systems.

"I think many retailers who I represent would be more assured in changing their systems if there were some common harmonisation or standard to change to."

Changing does not mean shops having to replace expensive equipment at the tills, its a computer programming change that is needed.

Policy change

It is the Association of Payment Clearing Services which tries to co-ordinate anti-fraud measures.

Its spokesman, Richard Tyson Davies, suggests that more retailers could help cut fraud by not including all the digits on card receipts, and those that do not are stuck in the past.

"International rules that cover all card transactions in the world did mandate that all 16 numbers had to appear on the receipt.

"But I think people have thought about it a bit more and realised that missing just four numbers means you still have a good chance of tracing the transaction if you needed to."

In fact the rules allowing retailers to give customers greater protection against fraud came in last year, but Moneybox has found there is widespread ignorance or confusion surrounding this.

Esso and Dixons

Esso, for example, still print all numbers and card expiry dates on every card receipt issued at its 1500 services stations across the UK.

"Under the card scheme rules issued by Mastercard and Visa the full card number must appear on customer receipts, " said Esso.

However, Esso is working on advice from its bank, NatWest, and Mastercard and Visa say they now actively encourage retailers to blank out digits as a protection against fraud.

Most supermarkets have started blocking out some digits or will be soon.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway and Asda say they are already protecting customers in this way and Waitrose plan to start this policy on Monday.


I think many retailers who I represent would be more assured in changing their systems if there were some common harmonisation or standard to change to

David Smith,
British Retail Consortium, spokesman

Unfortunately, none of the major service station chains, Esso, Shell or BP do it.

Neither does the Dixons Group, which includes PC World, Currys and the Link.

HMV stated that they leave the full numbers on receipts too, saying that it is an incentive for customers not to create litter.

Although confusing, the issue is now on the agenda at a top level meeting of retailers and banks in the next few days, where they will try to come up with a clearer policy for protecting honest customers.

If fraudulent items do appear on customer's statements then the card company should pay - but proving who made the transaction may well be difficult.

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See also:

12 Jan 01 | Talking Point
Do you use your plastic too much?
01 Jan 01 | Business
Better protection for bank users
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