The amount of fraud committed overseas on UK debit and credit cards has hit a five-year low, a survey has said.
Holidaymakers need to keep an eye on their valuables
A study by Apacs, the body which represents card issuers, found overseas fraud on UK cards totalled £92.5m in 2004, the lowest figure since 1999.
It said most of the fall was down to better fraud-detection systems which can detect unusual spending patterns.
Apacs said just under half of the fraud took place in three countries - the United States, France and Spain.
TIPS FOR BEATING THE FRAUDSTERS
Only take cards away with you that you intend to use on holiday
If you have chip and pin cards make sure you know your pin numbers
Make sure you have the 24-hour phone number to cancel your cards in case they are lost or stolen
Keep valuables safe and out of sight, for example in a concealed money belt
When driving, keep handbags and wallets out of sight of opportunistic thieves, especially in slow-moving traffic
Always remove cards and valuables from parked cars
When paying be wary of letting your card out of your sight and carefully dispose of any receipts or statements
When you return home, check your statements carefully for any unfamiliar transactions
Total fraud committed overseas on UK cards peaked in 2001, reaching a high of £138.4m.
But Apacs said new computer systems, which can pick up abnormal spending patterns associated with fraudulent behaviour, have helped to counteract the problem.
In addition, the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit - a specialist police team sponsored by the banking industry - had managed to stop a number of international card counterfeiting rings.
Apacs said it was too soon for new chip and pin cards to have made an impact on fraud levels, as the widespread use of such cards only began late last year.
However, it said it was hopeful that the new European chip and pin standard would help to cut fraud further this year.
The highest level of fraud in one country against UK cards was in the United States with £16.4m, Apacs found. France was in second place with £15.8m, while Spain came third with £12.3m.
However, Apacs noted that France had seen the biggest improvement on 2003, when fraud on UK cards had reached £23.6m.
Despite the improving trend, Apacs said holidaymakers needed to take care when using their plastic abroad.
"Cardholders should remember to follow a few simple rules to make sure they're protected while they're abroad," said Sandra Quinn of Apacs.
"Simple things like making sure your cards never leave your sight, and remembering to dispose of receipts carefully, can make all the difference."