Fraudsters try to extract banking information via e-mail messages
Fraudsters are stepping up their efforts to steal money from our bank accounts.
The latest figures show that UK consumers lost £609m to card fraud in 2008, a 14% rise compared with the previous year.
As our payment methods continue to change, so con-artists will find new ways to trick people out of their money.
So what are the tips for protecting yourself against fraud and what are the biggest dangers?
Is this a common problem?
Although fraud was made more difficult owing to chip-and-pin, it has started to rise again since 2007.
Fraud figures are compiled by the
UK payments association Apacs
They show that fraudsters have found clever ways of circumventing some new card technology, but they need to be extremely well-organised to do so.
In 2008, total fraud on UK credit and debit cards rose to £609m.
Does new technology offer fraudsters more chances to raid accounts?
Innovation does not automatically cause an increase in fraud, although fraudsters are generally quicker to adapt to changing systems than consumers.
New technology such as "contactless" debit cards - which operate by pressing a card to a sensor at a till - is likely to become much more common in the next few years.
An Apacs spokeswoman accepts there is no such thing as 100% security, but has faith in the security of new methods of card payment.
"No system would ever be made available unless the banking industry was entirely confident in the technology," she says.
From time to time you will still be asked to enter a Pin with a contactless card.
There is not enough data on the card to clone. Security built into the chip means any data that is intercepted will not work if somebody tries to use it again.
The chip can also be "turned off" if embedded in a mobile phone, or the user would need to put in an access code to operate it.
It is also tough for a shopkeeper to effectively short-change you. The terminal is only programmed to accept one payment, and the retailer has to manually enter the second amount, if the card is used more than once in one visit.
What are the rising and falling types of fraud?
Most recently criminals have been stealing or copying UK-issued cards and using them overseas where chip-and-pin technology is not in place.
Credit and debit cards should be cut up when you no longer use them
Nearly 40% of total card fraud took place abroad, Apacs say.
Online banking fraud rose 132% in 2008, compared with the previous year. This was mainly the result of phishing attacks - when fraudsters trick people out of their bank account details using bogus e-mails - or by using malicious software that tracks what users typed to gather passwords and credit card numbers.
Phone, internet and mail order shopping still account for the biggest amount of card fraud - as fraudsters circumvent the chip-and-pin system.
All this makes it sound like having cards is a risky business?
There are always risks if you are not careful with your cards or your personal information.
But it is worth remembering that cash has its dangers as well. Pickpockets and thieves still operate and it is never a good idea to carry around large amounts of cash or keep big sums hidden at home.
Always shield the keypad and make sure the cash is securely in a wallet or purse when using a cashpoint.
What tips are on offer to protect ourselves from fraud?
Some basic advice has been issued by Apacs, and includes:
- Don't let your cards or your card details out of your sight when making a transaction
- Do not keep your passwords, login details or Pins written down
- Do not disclose Pins, login details or passwords in response to unsolicited emails
- Only divulge card details over the phone when you have made the call or when you are familiar with the company
- Access internet banking or shopping sites by typing the address into your browser. Never enter your personal details on a website you have accessed via a link from an e-mail
- Shop at secure websites by checking that the security icon is showing in your browser window (a locked padlock or an unbroken key)
- Always log out after shopping and save the confirmation e-mail as a record of your purchase
For more advice you can
visit the Card Watch website
Are there any other checks or suggestions to protect my money?
It is worth keeping an eye on your credit file for any entries that you do not recognise, in case somebody is claiming credit in your name.
There are various organisations which you can go to to access your file including
for a small fee.
Other tips include shredding financial documents that are no longer needed, and locking away the important ones that you need to keep.
You should always notify anyone who deals with your personal information of a change of address.
If I am a victim, who do I report it to?
Since April 2007, anyone who has been a victim of card, cheque or online banking fraud in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has no longer needed to report the fraud to the police as well as the bank or card company.
Previously some banks wanted a crime number, but now the consumer only has to deal with the financial institution.
Will I always be covered for my losses?
Anyone who is a victim of fraud is not liable, under terms outlined in
the Banking Code which you can see here
As long as you have not acted fraudulently or without "reasonable care", you will be reimbursed if somebody uses your card, steals it, or clones it.
The code says that if somebody uses your card before you report it lost or stolen, or somebody knows your pin, then you could have to pay the first £50 that is lost.
These rules will apply for contactless cards and should also be expected for mobile payments in the future.
And remember, the first £50,000 of your savings are protected if a bank or building society goes bust.
For more information, see this
question and answer explanation on savings protection
1. A customer approaches the till to buy a newspaper and the shopkeeper punches in the amount to be paid
2. As the contactless card is pressed close to the terminal, the reader powers up the chip within the card. Account numbers and encryption details are sent between them before the terminal approves the sale
3. The terminal sends a message to the acquiring bank, which sends a message to the card operator, which contacts the card provider. Money is then taken from the customer's account to pay the shopkeeper.
The whole process takes a matter of seconds and builds on the technology used for chip-and-pin.