Don't assume the US is card fraud free, FICO warn

30 June 2011, 21:10   By Julia Kukiewicz

AMERICAN payments information giant FICO has warned that UK holidaymakers risk becoming "complacent" about the threat posed by credit card fraud in the US.

credit card
Credit: dean bertoncelj/

In 2009, more money was lost by UK travellers as a result of card fraud in the USA than in any other country: a staggering £21.4m.

In Canada, the second worst country in terms of fraud loss, the figure was just £6.3m.

Given America's size and its popularity as a destination, perhaps that's not surprising but, FICO point out, the America's lack of chip and PIN services poses a specific threat to Brits paying on plastic.

"Holidaymakers should not become complacent as it is still important to remain vigilant against threats, particularly that posed by credit card fraud," Martin Warwick, fraud expert at FICO told us.

A 2010 YouGov survey found that 37% of people are more worried about financial crime when they travel overseas.

Yet only 69% of those who were concerned took extra steps to protect themselves.

Chip and PIN less

Chip and PIN is now widely used throughout Europe but it's far less common in the United States.

For that reason lost and stolen cards run a far higher risk of fraud, Warwick points out.

"In a country where most transactions are verified by signature, anyone who finds your card could easily start using it for their own purchases," he said.

Warwick also points out that consumers could find it harder to keep their credit cards within their sight in America.

Portable card payment processing devices are not as common as they are in the UK so, in restaurants in particular, cards may be taken away and risk being cloned.

Having said that, PIN fraud, which we look at in more detail here, poses just as great a risk in the US as it does in the UK: liability remains the same and criminals can still use the PIN to get cash out of an ATM.

Leave a note

Travelling abroad
Lost and stolen cards: What to do
Guide to cards abroad: Here

In general, your mum's advice to always leave a note holds good when going abroad with a credit card too.

All credit card providers monitor accounts for possible fraudulent activity and the card being used in an unusual location is a classic sign.

The same YouGov survey also found that 50% of those that holiday abroad rarely or never inform their bank when they leave, risking their account being flagged for unusual - possibly fraudulent - activity.

This is even more worrying since 41% admitted that they didn't always take an extra bank card to use as a back up.

Calling the card provider to ask them to put a note on where you're going on the card is fast becoming a holiday preparation essential.

FICO also advise credit cardholders to take the opportunity to make sure that the bank has the correct contact details.

Having the right details and so allowing the bank to make contact within minutes will allow the card provider to double check anything suspicious.

All in all, the perception that only banks should shoulder responsibility for card fraud is fast falling away: individual card holders, experts urge, need to take matters into their own hands.

"There are still a worrying number of people who are failing to do enough to protect themselves," managing director for Financial Crime Risk, Jim Oakes, has said in the past.

"The individual still has a role to play in keeping their bank card safe and stopping it from getting into the hands of a criminal."

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