1,936% increase in UK credit card fraud over the last 16 years

A brief breakdown of credit card fraud in the UK, including how it has increased over the last two decades and how you can protect yourself.

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A stack of credit cards piled on top of each other

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A credit card can be a valuable tool in your wallet that makes life much easier. It allows you to make purchases and spread the cost. It’s also safer and more convenient than carrying cash. In addition, there’s potential to earn reward points or cashback when you spend, as well as build your credit score.

However, credit cards are not without their drawbacks. A significant issue is the risk of cybercrime or other forms of fraud.

Payment options comparison website Merchant Machine has conducted a study to determine the scope and growth of credit card fraud in the UK and other parts of Europe. Here’s what they’ve found.


What is credit card fraud?

Credit card fraud is essentially any type of theft or fraud involving a credit card. According to the Money Advice Service, the primary goal of credit card fraud is to purchase goods without paying or to steal money from someone else’s credit account. You can check out our article on the different types of credit card fraud.

Typically, when it comes to credit card fraud, the majority of the damage is done very quickly, often within days, before the victim becomes aware that there is an issue. Often, victims know nothing of the crime until they are contacted by their credit card company or even a debt collection agency regarding unpaid credit card bills.

Credit card fraud in the UK: what do the stats show?

Card fraud is a big problem in the UK. For example, according to UK Finance, total fraud losses on UK-issued cards amounted to £574.2 million in 2020.

The new study from Merchant Machine shows that the problem has been festering for quite some time. According to the stats, between 2002 and 2018, credit card fraud in the UK increased by 1,936%.

While this is obviously a staggering increase, it pales in comparison to the rise in credit card fraud in countries like Ireland and Greece, where credit card fraud increased by a whopping 22,522% and 22,372% respectively.

The study by Merchant Machine further shows that the UK is among the countries most at risk of cybercrime. It ranks third behind Ireland and France. However, of all the countries in the study, the UK has the highest fraud value per 1,000 inhabitants (€10,414).

The full findings of the study can be found on the Merchant Machine website.


How can you protect yourself?

The increase in credit card fraud in the UK and other countries in Europe since 2002 is not entirely surprising. Modern technology has made information theft easier to carry out. Criminals are constantly coming up with new and innovative ways of committing fraud.

While almost anyone can be a victim, there are precautions you can take to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and fraudsters. Here are a few of them:

  • Never let your card out of your sight when you are paying for goods or services.
  • Use strong and secure passwords for your credit card accounts. Also, make sure that you are not using the same passwords across multiple accounts.
  • Make sure that your phone and computer software is up to date and consider installing an antivirus program.
  • Always use trusted and secure sites for internet purchases (check for the padlock symbol on the URL bar).
  • Shred all old documents containing any personal information.
  • Close all unused credit accounts and destroy old credit cards.
  • Don’t give your credit card number, PIN and other details or personal information over the phone. Similarly, never respond to emails that request your card information or that ask you to go to a certain site to verify your personal or card information.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, make sure that you contact your card provider immediately to stop further action on the account.

You should then report the incident to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime. You can do this using their online fraud reporting tool or by phoning 0300 123 2040.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

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