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Protecting your cards

Want to know how you can protect yourself from credit and debit card fraud? Here are some of the most common methods used by fraudsters  and how you can protect yourself.

If you are concerned about the security of your account, contact us.

Protect yourself at cash machines

Fraudsters use different tactics to try to obtain your personal details. One that’s on the rise is known as ‘shoulder surfing’. This is where a fraudster will look over a person’s shoulder at cash machines to get personal details.

Here are some tips to help your money safe:

  • You never know who’s behind you at a cash machine – make sure you shield your PIN
  • Don’t let anyone distract you. Fraudsters might try to divert your attention by talking to you – they may then grab your card
  • Don’t give your PIN to anyone – even to someone claiming to be from the police or your bank. Memorise it and don’t keep it with your cards
  • Check your statements regularly and if you see any unusual activity, contact your bank
  • Check the machine you’re using. If it looks like it has been tampered with don’t use it and let your bank know.

Shop safely online 

  • Use a computer, laptop or mobile device that’s protected with up-to-date security software
  • Avoid entering your card details on shared or public computers
  • Know who you’re buying from before giving your card details online or over the phone
  • Register for Verified by Visa and/or MasterCard SecureCode
  • Only enter your card details on secure sites – check the web address begins with ‘https’ and that there’s an unbroken padlock symbol in the browser address bar – but note the padlock symbol only indicates a secure connection it doesn't guarantee who you are dealing with is credible.
  • Always log out after shopping and save the confirmation email as a record of your purchase.

Lost and stolen card fraud

This occurs when a lost or stolen card is used by a fraudster posing as you. Most lost and stolen card fraud occurs before you report the loss.

To protect yourself:

  • Report any lost or stolen cards immediately
  • Use chip and PIN cards where possible
  • Only carry the cards you need
  • Avoid placing cards in your pockets, where they can easily fall out
  • Make sure that your cards fit snugly inside your wallet or purse
  • Take precautions to avoid your card being stolen - for example, don't leave your handbag unattended or carry your wallet in your back pocket
  • Always shield your PIN from any observers when using cash machines.

Counterfeit card fraud or skimming

A counterfeit card can be a fake card or a valid one that's been altered or recoded.

Most cases of this fraud involve skimming, the process by which the data on your card's magnetic stripe is electronically copied onto another card without your knowledge.

Skimming commonly occurs at retail outlets - particularly bars, restaurants and petrol stations - and at cash machines that have been illegally fitted with a skimming device. The stolen data is then used to create counterfeit cards. Most people are unaware that they've fallen victim to this fraud until their statements arrive.

To protect yourself:

  • Don't leave your card with bar or restaurant staff for long periods
  • Don't let retail staff take your card away to process payments
  • Check cash machines for signs of tampering before you use them.

Card-not-present fraud

This is the most common type of card fraud in the UK. It occurs when fraudsters steal your card details and use them to make purchases over the Internet or by phone, fax or mail. Always be aware of who you are dealing with.

To protect yourself:

  • Avoid entering your card details on shared or public computers
  • Always remember to log out of any websites where you've entered your card details
  • Only enter your card details on secure sites that you trust, preferably with merchants using the 3-D Secure service (remember to check that the web page has the secured lock or key icon in the browser)
  • Keep a close eye on your statements and report any fraudulent transactions immediately
  • If you do a lot of online shopping you may wish to consider using a debit card with a low balance, or credit card with a low limit, specifically for online purchases.

Mail-non-receipt fraud

This fraud occurs when you order a new card and it's stolen in transit. You're at particular risk of this fraud if you live in a property with a communal letterbox, such as a block of flats or a student residence hall.

To protect yourself find out how long it will take for any new cards to be mailed out to you and contact your card provider straightaway if they don't arrive on time.

Identity theft on cards

This occurs when a fraudster uses your personal information to open or access card accounts in your name. There are two types:

  • Application fraud takes place when stolen or fake identification documents are used to open an account in your name
  • Account takeover occurs when fraudsters use your personal information to pose as you and convince your bank to make payments from your accounts, order new cards and chequebooks, and so on

To protect yourself:

  • Shred bills, bank statements and other documents containing your personal details before disposing of them
  • If you use social networking sites, display as little personal data on your page as possible
  • If you suspect your mail is being stolen in the UK, contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry Line on 0845 774 0740 to check if a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your knowledge
  • If you move house, ask Royal Mail to redirect your mail and advise the companies that you do business with straight away.

If you have a personal credit file check it regularly using a credit reference agency such as:

Travelling abroad

In case you accidentally lose your card, or it gets stolen whilst you’re abroad, please get in touch with us immediately.

Plan before your trip

  • If your cards are registered with a card protection agency, remember to take their number too
  • Take another card or alternative payment method with you so that you’re not reliant on one card
  • Check the information on the sales voucher before you sign or enter your PIN
  • Keep a copy of your sales receipts and check your statement carefully when you get back.

More information about card fraud

If you're planning to travel, it's best to let us know in advance. This helps avoid problems with using your cards and accounts overseas, as well as helping to protect you from fraud while you're away.

Card Watch contains useful information about card fraud for consumers and businesses.

Be Card Smart Online is packed with tips for protecting yourself against online card fraud and is specifically designed for online shoppers.

The identity theft website developed by the Government, Metropolitan Police and various industry bodies contains detailed information about identity theft and how you can avoid it. Our guide to identity theft summarises some of the key points from this website.