Credit and debit card holders are being urged to keep their bank cards safe as thieves exploit the increasingly popular contactless payment function.
Between July 2016 and June 2017 Northamptonshire Police logged 834 instances of cards being stolen, in many cases after the cards were left in vehicles or unattended in public places.
As many cards now offer contactless payment, criminals can use the stolen cards to make repeat purchases of up to £30 a time, in some cases even after a card is cancelled.
Common items bought with stolen contactless cards in Northamptonshire include alcohol, cigarettes and scratch cards.
Detective Inspector Tania Ash, of the Crime Bureau, said: “Over the past 12 months this type of crime has seen a series of spikes, and sadly many cases have been down to opportunistic thieves taking advantage of people who are not taking proper care of their cards.
“While banks do tend to pay the money back for fraudulent contactless payments, this doesn’t happen in every case, and in circumstances where someone has recorded their PIN number with their card they do not pay.
“Don’t make it easy for criminals to take your hard-earned money, and save yourself the hassle of having to deal with the aftermath of card theft. Please look after your bank cards and keep them with you at all times when you’re out and about.”
The warning comes as the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show card payments have overtaken cash for the first time, with the growth of debit card use attributed to the rise of the contactless function.
In cases where cards have been stolen from vehicles, many have been left in glove boxes, door pockets or in the front console. Officers have also seen a number of cases where victims have left their card, purse or wallet unattended in a shop or pub.
DI Ash said: “Our advice is to always keep your credit and debit cards safe in a purse or wallet, and keep this with you at all times when outside your home. We’re working hard to prevent this kind of crime but you can do your bit by never leaving your cards lying around in public or in your vehicle.”
Crime prevention advice:
- Always keep your cards in a safe and secure place such as a purse or wallet, and keep this with you at all times when outside your home
- Never leave your cards lying about in public, or in your vehicle, even if they are out of sight
- If your card is lost or stolen report it immediately to your bank or card provider. Save the number for reporting loss or theft into your phone so you have it to hand should you need it
- Keep an eye on your statements for any rogue contactless transactions – these may be small and can occur long after the theft. Check your bank’s policy for more information on how it deals with post-cancellation contactless purchases on lost and stolen cards
- If you think your card is being used fraudulently, tell your bank or building society immediately and report it to Action Fraud – www.actionfraud.police.uk