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The mass replacement of credit and debit cards with the UK roll-out of Chip and PIN is fuelling a 'mini-boom' in card crime, The Guardian reports. Crooks are intercepting replacement cards in the post and using them to commit fraudulent transactions. Often, bank cards users are not expecting to receive new cards, so they won't realise anything is amiss until they receive their monthly statements.

Chip and PIN began in October 2003 and is designed to make credit and debit card purchases more secure. Consumers are asked to enter a four-digit PIN code instead of signing to verify card transactions. Newly-issued credit and debit cards will come with smart chips to recognise this PIN number when transactions are processed. Up to 130m new Chip and PIN cards will be sent out by the end of the year, at which point retailers who haven't introduced the new scheme become liable for fraudulent transactions.

As more cards are been sent out, a greater number are being intercepted by thieves. The industry lost £43.4m to "mail non-receipt fraud" in 2003 and this can only be expected to increase this year. Most cards are sent through Royal Mail's standard service, rather than couriers or Royal Mail's more secure premium service such as Registered Delivery. Last year more than 14m items of post were lost in transit.

In London alone, police are getting "three to four" people a day reporting such thefts, according to The Guardian. Victims were often unaware that their bank had sent them a new card because their previous card remains valid. In some instances crooks had managed to steal not just new Chip and PIN cards but the PIN number that goes with them, allowing crooks to empty accounts using cashpoints.

A spokeswoman for the Association for Payment Clearing Services said that consumers would not be liable for such losses. "For the banks it is a risk assessment exercise, but you have to remember that the majority of cards arrive without problem - when they do go missing in the post the customer is not liable for any subsequent losses," she said. ®

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Cardholders clueless on Chip and PIN
Chip and PIN gathers pace
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UK credit card fraud down 8%
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