The UK’s top three credit card fraud hotspots are London, Manchester, and the small Scottish town of Kilmarnock, a research company has discovered.

The incongruous finding came out of a postcode analysis of credit card card-not-present (CNP) fraud over the last year carried out by the Internet crime consultancy Early Warning.

Using highly localised postcodes, it was found that certain districts of London have seen much higher levels of the crime than others, including Thamesmead where "whole streets are involved in the crime," and, further afield, Ilford and Romford in Essex, and Twickenham in Middlesex.

Because of the difficulty of pinpointing where CNP frauds originate, the organisation ignored where fraud victims happened to live and instead noted the addresses to which goods were delivered as a result of CNP crime.

Outside London, the towns of Bournemouth, Northampton, Portsmouth and Stockport, all registered rising rates of CNP scamming, and were marked at potential hotspots for the future. That the unremarkable town of Kilmarnock - population 43,000 - should make it to number three in terms of fraud levels, behind huge cities, is an unexpected statistic. No numbers were released to gauge the relative levels in any of the towns mentioned, however.

Early Warning has published a CNP map (PDF) of UK, which divides it into areas of high, medium and low fraud levels for the last 12 months. Subscription-based members can also query an online postcode "risk assessment tool" to check levels in specific towns.

"We weren’t surprised when we realised that London had come out on top of the fraudsters’ league table, with several postcode areas showing a ‘very high’ incidence of fraudulent CNP purchases," said Early Warning’s Andrew Goodwill.

He pointed to the way that CNP fraud can quickly spring up in an area previously free of it, presumably on the back of organised gangs targeting new towns. "What is surprising is the fact that some postcode areas both inside and outside the Capital that last year recorded only negligible numbers of frauds are now reporting 'low' or 'medium' numbers. No single area of the UK is untouched by this problem."

With the advent of PIN numbers for credit and debit cards in the UK, CNP fraud has started to rise as scammers are forced to concentrate on using cards electronically rather than in person. Figures from the UK payments association, APACS, put it at £183 million for 2005, a figure that is expected to rise even as overall fraud levels decline. CNP fraud carried out online - as opposed to offline - has seen rises.