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Online bank fraud rises as phishing criminals redouble efforts

UK Card Association figures offer mixed news

Article comments

A resurgence in phishing attacks has caused a sharp rise in the sums being lost to online credit and debit card fraud, half-year figures from the UK Cards Association have shown.

Between January and June of 2012, online banking losses reached £21.6 million ($35 million), a 28 percent rise on the same period a year earlier. Telephone banking fraud reached £6.7 million although this represented a 21 percent fall as criminals moved to the preferred medium of web-based fraud.

Total card not present (CNP) fraud, which includes old-fashioned cheque fraud but *excludes* online bank and telephone fraud, was fairly static at £115.8 million, which underlines the extent to which bank and other online fraud represents the growth crime.

The tactic used by the criminals is simply to trick users into divulging their logins but this is being done in ways that are getting harder to spot.

“This increase is due to organised criminal gangs committing straightforward frauds, and our focus remains on targeting those responsible and bringing them to justice,” said detective chief inspector David Carter of the police Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).

“Your bank or the police will never cold call you or email you and ask you for your full login details, cards or PINs. If anyone does, hang up the phone or delete the email,” he said.

As valid as this warning might be, it is not clear to what extent bank consumers are being phished in this way. The major menace in recent years has been keylogging in which credentials are recorded and transmitted as they are entered into target websites. The victim is never contacted directly.

Put into a longer-term context, 2008 remains the peak year for card fraud when it reached levels almost double current rates.

Chip and PIN arrived in 2004 and is often said to have cut theft levels but what has made the difference was the 2007 financial crisis. Banks decided to put more resources into the swelling boil of card not present fraud and matters quickly improved. That improvement has now tailed off.

The figures show that other less technical forms of plastic fraud also seem to have got a bit worse. Lost and stolen card fraud is up 9 percent to £28 million, card ID theft is up 27 percent to £14.6 million, while the mail interception of cards rose 18 percent to £6.4 million.

Card cloning (charmingly called “face to face” fraud) rose 19 percent to £26.5 million, including while abroad; foreign card crime now sits at £46.1 million.


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