New figures suggest that the arrival of Chip and PIN technology has succeeded in reducing card fraud levels across the UK.
The figures for 2005, just released by the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS), show a 13 percent fall for 2005 - the year Chip and PIN technology was first introduced - compared to the previous year.
Overall fraud levels fell from £504.8 million in 2004 to £439.4 million last year. Within the category of offline fraud, only card-not-present (CNP) theft has increased, rising by 21 percent to £32.4 million.
The organisation had previously predicted that overall fraud levels would have reached £800 million by the end of 2005, without the intervention of new technology.
APACS said that frauds where cards were stolen before being received by customers had reduced because it was now much more difficult to spoof without a genuine PIN. Likewise, card skimming, where information is stolen from cards when they are legitimately used, had become equally tricky for criminals.
Less positively, online fraud has doubled from £12.2 million to £23.2 million, most now attributable to phishing scams. This appears to confirm the view that tightening controls in over-the-counter commerce has sent criminals to areas where Chip and PIN is not yet being used. APACS said it expected that the technology would be rolled out for online transactions in the future.
Seeing card fraud losses come down is cast-iron proof that chip and PIN is doing its job, said Sandra Quinn, director of corporate communications at APACS.
Chip and PIN is a system which requires anyone using a debit or credit card to enter a unique PIN number into a shop terminal before a transaction can be authorised. It replaced the use of signatures, considered too easy to fake.