Daily Money Minute

Fotolia_54867638_XS_7“You’re telling me that my MasterCard has been cloned? How could that possibly happen? I am careful in how I use my card and I will only use it with businesses which are generally considered reputable and safe.” ~Roy Sutton

Those words were my words and they were spoken just last night. As I was preparing to join the revellers for the New Year’s celebrations, I received a call from the security department of M&S Bank on my mobile phone. As I couldn’t be sure that it was in fact a genuine call I agreed to return the call on the official number as printed on the back of my M&S Bank MasterCard. Once the formalities were out of the way, a very nice lady explained that they had noticed an unusual transaction attempt on my card. Apparently there had been an attempt to withdraw cash on my card in Colombia. Her first question was whether there was any way the transaction attempt could have been genuine. I confirmed that it could not because at that moment I was in Liverpool, England and I have never been to Colombia in my life. The lady said that she thought that this would be the case, given that my card had also been used in my home city of Liverpool in the preceding few days as well. To cut a long story short the lady told me that they believed that my M&S Bank MasterCard had been cloned and that someone had been trying to use the cloned card in Colombia for this attempted cash withdrawal. Fortunately for me this lady confirmed that the transaction attempt had been declined and that my card had been cancelled. So there was no financial loss for me to worry about and I will now get a new card within a few days. In that sense it is all quite reassuring. Clearly M&S Bank and MasterCard have a very tight security system which responds quickly to transactions if they appear to be unusual in relation to the normal day-to-day activity of the card holder. I must say that I am very grateful to them as they have saved me from a major headache. Nevertheless it also worries me insofar as I am genuinely very careful when using both credit and debit cards. I am aware of the risk of cloning and other fraudulent activity with respect to cards and I will only use a card in businesses with the highest reputation. Whenever I do use my card I will only do so when I have full visibility of the card at all times. Also I will only use the card when the transaction process is based on the use of the modern Chip and PIN terminal at the point of sale. So what does all this mean? It would appear that somewhere along the line in the past week or so, a Chip and PIN terminal in a reputable business either in London or Liverpool, must have been compromised. Someone must have been able to modify that terminal to allow them to gather the data required to clone a card. That is the only way that the data could have been fraudulently captured. Now I am sure M&S Bank and MasterCard security specialists will be looking at my recent card usage in order to establish whether places where I have used my card also feature in the card usage of other people whose cards have also been cloned. No doubt in time they will identify the rogue terminal and the perpetrators of this crime will be caught. Nevertheless it is a salutary lesson for me. Clearly one must exercise great care when using credit and debit cards and we must all be conscious of the risk of fraud at all times. Habitual use of a card to avoid carrying cash is probably not a good idea at all. The more we use a card then the more opportunities the crooks and scammers will have to take us by surprise. As I completed my call with this kindly lady at M&S Bank I was reminded of those words regularly spoken by the Duty Sergeant in the 80s TV series Hill Street Blues as he completed his briefing for his officers each morning. If you remember the series you’ll remember him saying, “Hey, hey, be careful out there!” And we would all do well to follow his advice. When you are using a credit or debit card, be very, very careful.

If you don’t believe that compromising a Chip and PIN terminal is possible then just read this article here.

© RJ Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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