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“I’m on holiday and my cards have been used by fraudsters.” Would you know how to avoid being left out of pocket?

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
May 1, 2018

There are a few simple steps everyone should take to remove the worry of being a victim of card theft or cloning while abroad.

It’s an increasing problem and handing over your card overseas has extra dangers because, firstly, it’s harder to make a judgement about who you’re handing your car to and secondly, you’re also likely to be flashing the plastic more often and at lots of different places, so increasing risk.

And the risk is very real – debit and credit card fraud is a multi-billion pound industry worldwide. It doesn’t matter where you are, the fraudsters are on the lookout for victims.

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Here’s our checklist to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket.

  • Don’t write down your card details, or enter them on your phone. If you do and a debit card issuer can show you did, they can lawfully refuse to pay you back over any fraudulent use. This includes telling anyone your pin – banks have even been known to try and refuse payment because a pin was shared with a family member.

With credit cards, the rules are slightly more favourable to card holders. Issuers would have to show you authorised a payment before they could refuse a refund.

  • Monitor your account. These days most of us have data access while abroad. If you’re in the EU, you can use data as part of your package from home, and if you’re further afield, it’s a good idea to buy a pre-paid SIM. Not only does this allow you to keep an eye on transactions on your card via the card issuer’s app, it’s also useful for calls via VOIP and using online maps to navigate and avoid getting lost.

Monitoring your account means you can alert your card issuer the moment you see something you don’t recognize. This helps stop the fraudsters in their tracks early on.

  • While it’s true you should never write down your card details, you should make a note of the number to call if you suspect fraud. It’s almost always on your card. Keep it handy, as you will find it invaluable if you need to report theft or misuse of your card.
  • Confine yourself to just one card (and a back-up – see below) while travelling, if you can. This keeps things simple if your wallet, for example, is stolen and means you don’t have multiple providers to inform. We’d recommend a card that doesn’t charge a commission when applying exchange rates. Most of these advertise this aspect as a selling point, so are easy to spot. Plus, of course, a back-up card.
  • Never let a card out of your sight. It’s easy to let your guard down when you're on holiday, but the same rules should apply as at home – where your card goes, so do you.
  • Consider a pre-paid card – these are the modern equivalent of travellers’ cheques, but, if your card falls into the hands of criminals, there is very little chance of you being able to get the money back that’s pre-loaded onto the card. On the plus side, loses are limited to whatever you pre-loaded, and you lock in a currency exchange rate when you put credit on the cards.


What to do if the worst happens

Report it straight away. This is why it’s useful to always monitor your card’s use via an app.

The sooner you report misuse, the better. 

Credit card issuers should always refund you in full for any payments that take place after you tell them your card has been compromised – unless, of course, they suspect fraud on your part.

If you don’t notice for a while that your card is being used fraudulently, then you should still get a refund, although you can  be held liable for the first £35 of spending, but it’s rare for issuers to impose this.

Any refund can be refused if your bank can show you acted fraudulently or were ‘grossly negligent’ – and that includes writing down the details of your card.

What if your card is cancelled as a result of fraud?

Some providers offer facilities allowing you to pick up cash from a bank while overseas if you lose your card or it’s stolen and so gets blocked, but not all.

It’s a good idea then to take a back-up card, either a debit or credit card, and/or some cash. They important thing is not to keep both cards and any cash all in the same place – that way, if you lose one, you’ll lose the lot.

Instead, make sure you either keep a back-up card in a separate place or, better still, make sure another member of your party has a card that can be used.

What if you’re refused a refund?

If you think you’re being treated unfairly, you can escalate your complaint through your provider’s dispute process. If you get nowhere, you’ll need to ask them for a ‘final letter of deadlock’, so you can then move on to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

The FOS is there to resolve disputes between consumers and financial services companies.

Once the FOS has made a decision about your case, card providers are bound by it, but if you’re still not happy, you can take your claim to the small claims court. But going this far will mean costs and the chances of you winning a case when you’ve lost the previous two steps may be thin.


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