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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
UK tourists' credit card woe
Credit cards
France tops the league for card fraud against UK holidaymakers, followed by Spain and the US, according to new research.

Together, these three countries accounted for nearly 80% of all unauthorised use of British-owned credit cards overseas last year, a survey from Barclaycard suggests.

The perpetrators were often organised gangs using sophisticated technology, the survey said.

Although France comes first in terms of the total amount defrauded from UK card customers, holidaymakers run a far greater risk of having their credit cards stolen or copied when in Spain.

In Spain, credit card fraud is more frequent, but involves smaller average amounts.

The highest average amount spent using stolen UK credit cards - 375 - was recorded in Switzerland, where the cost of living is relatively high.

Cloned cards

Barclaycard has raised particular concerns about the practice of 'skimming' cards - the most common form of counterfeiting.

Credit card fraud hotspots
1 France
3 Spain
4 Australia
5 Italy
Source: Barclaycard

The magnetic strip, seen on the back of cards, is copied - or 'skimmed' - by fraudsters, using a handheld card reader.

The card can then be cloned, and is sometimes used on the other side of the world from where the card was lost or stolen.

Overall, credit and debit card fraud has increased by 53% during the past two years, with organised criminal gangs being blamed for the rise.

The annual cost to individuals and banks of credit and debit card fraud is nearly 430m in the UK and abroad, according to the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs).

The BBC's Jon Moylan
"France tops the fraud league, followed by the USA and Spain"

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