Fraud involving UK credit cards fell 23% to £232 million in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year. The figures, from banking trade body Financial Fraud Action UK, showed that criminals had been switching to targeting foreign-issued cards.

Meanwhile, crime involving foreign cards, especially those without chip and PIN protection, rose by 36%, according to the report which was issued in conjunction with The UK Cards Association and the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company.

Katy Worobec, head of fraud control at Financial Fraud Action UK, said: "These latest fraud figures are good news but we know there’s no room for complacency. Whilst industry online security initiatives such as Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode may be making their presence felt, the fraudsters are never going to shut up shop and, of course, there are emerging areas such as online banking fraud which has risen again.

“Although it’s difficult to prove, we think that one of the reasons for this dip in card losses may simply be as a result of fraudsters realising that they can prosper more by targeting foreign-issued cards – particularly those without chip and PIN protection and which currently have stronger currencies than sterling. The fact that we’ve seen a 36% increase in the first half of this year in the amount of fraud being committed on foreign issued cards here in the UK adds some weight to this theory.”

The organisation said that the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) – the special police unit sponsored by the banking industry to stamp out organised card and cheque fraud across the UK – had certainly played its part in encouraging the fall in card fraud. Various other factors were also involved such as Chip and PIN.

(Financial Fraud Action UK is the name under which the financial services industry co-ordinates its activity on fraud prevention, presenting a united front against financial fraud and its effects. It was launched on July 6 to replace the work carried out by APACS and is now the payments industry voice on fraud.)