Petrol stations’ losses due to credit and debit card fraud fell by more than 10% last year according to new figures released today ...

(March 13th) by the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (APACS).

In 2006 the sector lost £11.4m because of card fraud. This compares to £12.7m in 2005 and £16.9m in 2004, before the introduction of Chip and PIN technology.

But APACS bosses have warned that forecourts continue to be targets for criminals. Sandra Quinn, director of communications, said: “Most petrol stations are now using Chip and PIN, so they are better protected from being the victims of fraud. Chip and PIN is working for them in that way. What it doesn’t do is stop people trying to use petrol stations as the starting point for committing a fraud, either by collecting details or skimming the card.”

Shell was a high-profile victim of such a scam last year, which resulted in the oil company suspending the use of Chip and PIN terminals on all its company-owned sites. A BP site in Surrey was also more recently targeted.

Quinn said: “Shell had their Chip and PIN terminals tampered with and magnetic strip readers inserted into them. This wasn’t new, it’s the same type of fraud that has always happened.”

She added that forecourts’ late opening hours can make them more vulnerable to this type of organised fraud, with lone staff potential targets who can be coerced into complying with criminals.

Total losses as a result of skimming or cloning were up by 3% on UK–issued cards compared to 2005. There has also been a 43% increase in fraud losses abroad as cards cloned in the UK are increasingly being used in countries that have yet to adopt Chip and PIN.

Card-not-present and online fraud losses increased by 16% and are now said to account for almost 50% of all card fraud losses.