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Sunday, 5 August, 2001, 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK
Thumbprints finger credit card cheats
Credit card being swiped
Thumbprints could help crack down on card fraud
Shops across the country could soon be asking customers for their fingerprints as part of the battle to stop credit card fraud.

Trial schemes asking shoppers for their personal thumbprint on the back of cheques or credit card receipts are already underway in Sussex and Birmingham.

The trial scheme is voluntary but stores may decide to decline the credit cards of customers who refuse.

We do not get involved unless stolen or fraudulent cards are used

PC Jo Lewin
Prints will not be kept on a database and slips will be destroyed.

But police will have access to the thumb prints if the scheme reveals a fraudulent transaction has been made.

Stores such as BHS, HMV and Dixons are taking part in the scheme, and police hope others will join if it proves a success.

Nicholas Pitt, of The Fort shopping park in Erdington, north east Birmingham, where the scheme is up and running, said he hoped the system would deter credit card fraudsters.

No Big Brother

"It is voluntary but if people refuse the shop may ask them to find an alternative way of paying," he said.

"Hopefully any worries people may have will be dispelled by the literature we are providing."

Mr Pitt said there had been few complaints about the scheme, which uses water-based ink which does not stain the hands.

Police would only access the prints if a fraud takes place

PC Jo Lewin, of West Midlands Police, said it should not raise fears of a "Big Brother" state.

"We do not get involved unless stolen or fraudulent cards are used. You can either eliminate or put a person in the frame with it."

She said a printing kit costs less than 10.

"This is really a test scheme but if it works we would like to see it extended to fight this widespread crime," she said.

The scheme is the latest in a series of attempts to curb credit card frauds that range from using stolen cards to counterfeit or cloned cards.

The Home Office has confirmed that discussions have taken place between banks and the police with the aim of creating a "dedicated law enforcement agency" to deal with organised credit card fraud.

Banks could be asked to fund at least half of a new system, which would include a cardholder's details being contained in a chip. A pin number would replace a signature at the point of sale to cut down on fraud.

The use of a chip is intended to cut down on "skimming", whereby a customer's details are easily copied from a magnetic strip on the back of credit cards and then money is taken fraudulently.

The BBC's Jonty Bloom
"Credit card fraud cost shops half-a-million pounds a day"
See also:

17 Aug 01 | Scotland
Credit card swindle warning
18 Jul 01 | Business
Banks to help fund fraud force
04 Jan 01 | UK
How credit cards get cloned
11 Jul 01 | Business
Lloyds TSB customers hit by fraud
18 Jun 01 | Business
Identity theft: stealing your name
22 Aug 00 | Business
Credit card firms in fraud crackdown
20 Feb 01 | Business
Credit card fraud rises by 50%
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