Internet fraudsters have had another good year, according to the UK’s Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS).

The banking organisation’s latest annual figures show that card not present (CNP) fraud in the country has risen by 29 percent compared to 2004, reaching £90.6 million ($175 million) in the six months to June this year. Of that, fraud specific to Internet transactions has risen by five percent, to £58 million ($101 million).

The figures are better than usual estimations - they are compiled from real losses incurred by UK banks.

The good news is that the introduction of chip and PIN technology to the UK in the last year has cut overall levels of fraud by 13 percent to £219 million ($384 million). As predicted, criminals have migrated to CNP fraud, where theft can be carried out without the need for a user-entered verification number.

Credit and debit card counterfeiting has fallen 31 percent, while theft launched after mail interception or the direct stealing of a card has fallen 27 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

Identity (ID) theft carried out against card holders has also fallen unexpectedly by 16 percent, but this masks the rise of more complex ID thefts not directly involving plastic. There are no figures on this area of crime in these statistics as they cover only financial products monitored by APACS.

Online banking fraud - one of the most important statistics in the report because it will include high-profile techniques such as phishing - has risen markedly from £4 million ($7 million) in 2004 last year to £14.5 million ($25 million) this year.

According to APACS, part of this rise is down to the increasing volumes of online activity, though it is hard to escape the conclusion that this is precisely why the banks might have been expected to introduce greater safeguards.

The report itself admits that many Britons are not aware of the danger it posed by criminals hacking their online banks, whether through phishing or other information theft techniques. Consumer are encouraged to use the banksafe online website to educate themselves about the risks of online banking and commerce, and to report suspected fraud.