New fraud intelligence released demonstrates the extent of the rise of an audacious telephone-based deception targeting British credit and debit card holders.

Figures released by Financial Fraud Action UK and The UK Cards Association show that the scam has already caused over £7.5m worth of fraud on credit and debit cards between January and August 2012. Over that time, more than 1,600 bank customers have fallen victim, with average losses per case weighing in at over £4,200.

Police are warning of an exponential rise in reported cases, with intelligence showing the estimated amount stolen through this method over the first eight months of this year was already ten times the amount stolen during the whole of 2011. The deception, undertaken by criminal gangs, tends to target elderly and vulnerable bank customers, with fraud intelligence showing that the average age of victims is 69. Particular hot spots for this crime in the UK include London, Surrey and Strathclyde.

The scam involves a person being called by a criminal posing as someone from their bank, or even the police. The caller tells the victim that their credit or debit card needs collecting and replacing following fraud on their account. Police have found that the criminal caller reassures the victim that the call is genuine by getting them to hang up and call the bank’s number for confirmation. Following this, the criminal caller stays on the line, tricking the victim into believing they are on a new call and that the person at the end of the line is their bank.

The criminal caller will then either ask the person for their PIN or ask them to key their PIN number into their telephone keypad, before sending a courier to collect the card. The victim is told that the card is going to the bank, but actually is delivered to the fraudster along with the PIN obtained during the scam.

The rapid spread of this fraud, and steep incline of losses, takes place against the background of some customers being unaware that bank staff will never request their card or PIN. New findings released today by Financial Fraud Action UK shows that 12% bank customers do not realise they should NEVER reveal their card PIN.

DCI Dave Carter, Head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) said:

“This fraud relies on deception of the customer, who cases show is often elderly and vulnerable, sometimes alone in the house, and who often takes the fraudster’s word at face value. While these new figures confirm that this scam and others like it, is on a steep rise, we can all protect ourselves and our relatives by remembering that banks will never ask for either your card or your PIN The only people who will ever ask you for your PIN are criminals. If someone on the phone asks for it, hang up immediately. If you believe you have had one of these calls or know someone who has, get in contact with your bank.”

Take the following steps to protect yourself:

  1. Never hand over your card: Your bank or the police will NEVER ring you to tell you they are coming to your home to pick up your card. Never hand it over to anyone who comes to collect it.
  2. Never share your PIN: Your bank will NEVER ask you to authorise anything by entering your PIN into the telephone. NEVER share your PIN with anyone – the only times you should use your PIN are at a cash machine or when you use a shop’s Chip & PIN machine.
  3. Always speak to the bank securely: Before calling your bank, make sure you can hear the dial tone. Only ever call your bank on an advertised number.