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EDITIONS
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 11:34 GMT
Card fraud: Victim's story
Credit card being swiped
Thumbprints could help cut card fraud

Credit and debit card fraud has more than trebled in the past five years to almost 430m, according to a new banking industry report.

BBC News Online's Ollie Stone-Lee tells how he became one of the victims of this mounting crime problem.

It was by far the most expensive meal I have ever eaten - a cool 800 for two courses, a few glasses of wine and a freshly prepared dish of credit card fraud on the side.

It was an accompaniment whose bitter taste only became apparent about a week later.

My friend and I left the restaurant in London's West End satisfied with a pleasant meal and buoyed by the "free liqueurs" provided by the incredibly friendly waiters.

Those feelings of good will towards the waiters rapidly disappeared when the bank telephoned me days later.

Turkish visit?

Calls from the bank always spark fears that I have blasted a hole in my overdraft limit, but my nervousness rose further when told officials had noticed some "unusual transactions" among my debit card payments.

"Have you been in Turkey, in Istanbul in the past couple of days," asked the woman from the bank.

"No, I've been in Balham, London."

Istanbul
An 800 bill was piled up in Istanbul
"Ah. Well it seems someone has been using your debit card in various shops in Istanbul."

My bank balance had looked fairly normal a couple of days earlier and my debit card was safely - or so I thought - in my wallet at home.

That had not stopped somebody using a copy of the card to the tune of about 800 in three Turkish shops, including it seemed about 250 on photographic goods.

If I had any doubts about the scene of the crime, they were dispelled by a quick call to the friend whose idea our restaurant visit was in the first place.

"Ian, you know that restaurant you took me to - the one you said you were always going to and the waiters all you knew your name..."

He quickly interrupted me: "You mean they've taken your money as well!"

Avoiding a repeat

The fraudsters had spent similar amounts of money with his card in Istanbul.

To my utter relief, the bank agreed from the start to put the money back into my account - and that they did after a few frantic days of me borrowing cash from my friends.

I filled in a form so the bank could report the fraud to the police - but never heard anything more and so presume the case never came to court.

It was at least comforting the bank had spotted the fraud before I had.

Banks advise people not to use cards to pay for restaurant meals unless you can keep the card in sight the whole time.

That is pretty much impossible in most restaurants - and we had certainly not noticed the cards being away from the table for any longer than usual.

So, in an effort to avoid any repeats, I am now relying on cash to feed my eating habit - and the latest figures suggest I will certainly not be the only one.

See also:

04 Nov 02 | Business
24 Sep 02 | England
07 Nov 02 | Scotland
18 Jul 01 | Business
04 Jan 01 | UK
18 Jun 01 | Business
22 Aug 00 | Business
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