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Credit card fraud: ‘How could scammers use it before I did?’ | Scams

I am no stranger to credit card fraud: in the past I have had my card cloned and had the details stolen from a hack on a retailer. But I thought a card I had never used would be safe from the threat of crime. I was wrong.

Even if you lock your credit card in a safe the moment it arrives, you can still fall victim to charges made by criminals. But how can criminals steal your card details if you’ve never even used them?

At 10pm on a quiet Thursday night in January, I got a text from my bank, Halifax, saying my credit card had been used at Domino’s Pizza for an order costing £30.67.

After 30 minutes on hold on an extremely busy Halifax line the customer service rep asked why I had called. “Fraud,” I said. “Domino’s?” he replied. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one paying for someone else’s takeaway.

In fact, the UK appears to have been in the grip of a takeway fraud boom. Recently a colleague’s card details were used to order £300 worth of takeways in the Andover area all over a single weekend.

This week, thousands of First Direct customers found their cards had been used to order chicken dinners in Nando’s. Mention to friends or family that your card was used by fraudsters to buy takeaways, and you will soon learn that you not alone.

In my case, Halifax froze my card to prevent further charges, and the next morning the card was cancelled and the charges marked to be refunded. Three days later a replacement card arrived on the doormat. Having activated it, I stashed it safely in a drawer. The next day I checked my statement to make sure the pizzas had been refunded – only to find to my horror seven fresh fraudulent charges totalling £465 – all on my new card. These weren’t at Domino’s but an unfamiliar sportswear company in the Midlands.

Takeaway pizza
Fraudsters are using people’s credit card details to buy takeaways in the UK. Photograph: PinPep/Rex/Shutterstock

Given I had only activated the card 16 hours prior, hadn’t used it, entered the new number into Apple Pay or any other service, it hadn’t left the house and no one else had access to it, how on earth had someone already spent money on it?

I am not the only person to have found myself asking this question recently – this week, the Guardian Money reader Phoebe Maddrell got in touch to say that her debit card details had been used for fraudulent transactions even though she had never used it – either online or in person.

In my case, Halifax’s fraud investigations team said I had fallen victim to what is called a “guess attack”, where an organised criminal gang work out the card number and the expiry date. They didn’t need to have stolen the card number in a hack or physical theft, and were able to use it as soon as it was activated.

Looking at a bank card’s 16-digit card number and four-digit expiry date, you might be forgiven for thinking that the combination would be too complex to simply guess. Unfortunately, it is very much not the case.

“The first thing to realise is that you are not guessing the full 16 numbers at random,” says Jake Moore, a global cybersecurity adviser at Eset. “The first six digits of a credit card number signify the card network and the issuing bank, while the final digit is the Luhn algorithm checksum.”

That means they only have to guess seven numbers, while that final Luhn digit helps verify whether the rest of the card number is valid. The checksum was originally designed to help spot manual input errors, such as mistyped numbers or transposed sequences, but it can also be used by criminals to verify a number could be real.

“There are websites out there that have Luhn verifiers which help find these numbers in little or no time at all, making the chances of locating a card in use relatively high,” Moore says.

Once a criminal gang has a potentially valid credit card number it can then try it out to see if it is in use. The card verification value (CVV) – the three digits usually printed on the back of the card in or next to the signature strip – helps prevent this kind of attack by adding further burden on the criminals.

“There are, however, many websites – often located outside the UK – that will accept card payments without any need for a three-digit CVV number or any other proof of identity,” Moore says.

Banks and card companies have sophisticated technologies in place to spot and prevent these sorts of attacks from happening in real time using certain characteristics of each transaction. Reports after the fact help refine the systems so they can stop more like it.

Criminals typically target websites that handle large volumes of low-value transactions, which makes it more difficult to spot fraud from the hundreds of thousands of genuine purchases.

Once an attack is identified additional checks are implemented to block it and prevent further similar frauds but some will pass through at first.

In my case, Domino’s did request the CVV of the first card but that, too, was guessed, allowing two of the transactions through before further transactions were flagged by Halifax’s systems. Takeways appear to be targeted as they regularly process low-value purchases where the card is not present. Criminals use a card’s details to make a series of rapid purchases until the card is stopped.

A Halifax spokesperson says: “Through our multilayered fraud detection systems, we never stop fighting to prevent fraud, blocking the vast majority that is attempted. Unfortunately, highly sophisticated criminal gangs also never stop trying to break our defences and some fraud does get through.”

This case has certainly made me reconsider the number of bank cards I hold and why. With every account opened, another card arrives that could result in me being a victim of fraud even if I never use it. Credit card fraud cost the UK £574.2m in 2020, according to data from UK Finance, including £376.5m of e-commerce fraud. While banks refunded 98% of customers and prevented an additional £983m of fraud in the year, there is always a risk it could happen to you.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Protecting yourself against a guess attack is difficult but there are things you can do to prevent the damage they cause.

Never approve a transaction you weren’t expecting. Measures to comply with the new strong customer authentication regulations are being phased in before the March 2022 deadline. These will typically require customers to verify some transactions via a one-time passcode sent by SMS or banking app prompt for about one in four online transactions.

Young woman using phone
From March, rules come in meaning customers will have to verify some transactions via a one-time passcode sent by SMS or banking app. Photograph: Tim Robberts/Getty Images

Most card issuers allow you to freeze or temporarily deactivate all or parts of the card’s functions. These include blocking transactions outside the UK, online or over the phone, in person or contactless payments. Freezes do not stop recurring transactions, direct debits or transactions where the retailers do not ask the bank for verification, such as public transport.

Report fraud to your bank immediately you spot it. Moore says: “I always advise people to check their bank statements regularly, even daily, to spot any discrepancies. If card details are stolen and slip through the net a small number of times, these cards become very valuable indeed and can be used multiple times, even for years on end, without raising suspicions.”

‘I am concerned that something strange is going on’

Phoebe Maddrell from Herefordshire was one of thousands of First Direct’s customers hit by fraudulent spending at the fast food chain Nando’s.

She received a message on the morning of 17 February querying a £42 payment from the debit card linked to her account. She saw it when she woke up, and responded to say she hadn’t made the payment.

“I then logged into my internet banking and saw that there were multiple transactions via Apple that I didn’t recognise,” she says.

Phoebe Maddrell for Money feature
Phoebe Maddrell’s debit card details were used for fraudulent transactions even though she had never used the card herself. Photograph: Phoebe Maddrell

“I started the account last June for saving. I’ve never taken the card out of the house; it’s never been used at a retailer.”

Maddrell contacted the bank straight away and was told that the Nando’s transaction had been blocked, and that the card would be cancelled and the Apple payments not charged to her account. However, later that day the Apple payments went through.

“I really am concerned that something strange is going on,” she says. “There is no way that the fraudsters could have obtained the card details from anywhere. Unless somehow these were breached when the card was sent to me in the post.”

Maddrell’s bank would not shed any light on how the fraud had occurred, saying it could not do so for security reasons, but said there had not been a data breach.

It says Maddrell will be repaid in full and will not need to speak to the fraud team.

A First Direct spokesperson said: “We are aware of some low-value unauthorised retail transactions appearing on a small number of our customers’ cards.

“We want to reassure impacted customers that they will not be left out of pocket and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

“We take our customers’ security very seriously and will be reaching out to affected customers in the coming days.

“We would advise customers to regularly check their statements and get in touch if they notice any suspicious activity.”

Maddrell has complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office about her case, and to the financial ombudsman about First Direct’s unwillingness to explain how the fraud happened, and because she was unable to reach the fraud team at first and told there was a four-week wait for a callback.
Hilary Osborne

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Ways Small & Medium-Sized Businesses Can Hire Big Tech Talent

In response to mounting financial concerns, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have recently implemented significant staff cuts. This has prompted industry leaders to reevaluate their hiring practices, recognizing the limitations of Big Tech’s ability to weather challenging economic times.

While the tech industry’s overall stability is assured, the combination of a declining economy and a previous surge in hiring has resulted in substantial job losses. However, this situation also presents an opportunity for small businesses and start-ups to tap into a pool of available tech experts.

To capitalize on this unique scenario, small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners must act swiftly to gain a competitive advantage over larger companies and attract highly skilled candidates.

In this article, John Elf, Technology Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’ and Head of Marketing at Vibertron Technologies, provides insights into some simple but effective strategies for attracting talent in a candidate-heavy market.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can leverage consulting services to attract the best talent, just like big tech companies do. Here’s how SMBs can make use of consulting services to enhance their talent acquisition efforts:

1. Talent Acquisition Strategy Development: SMBs can engage consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition and HR strategies to help them develop a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy. These consultants can assess the organization’s needs, identify talent gaps, and devise effective recruitment and sourcing strategies tailored to the SMB’s specific industry and requirements. This strategic approach ensures that the SMB is targeting the right candidates and maximizing its resources.

2. Employer Branding and Positioning: Consulting firms experienced in employer branding can assist SMBs in developing a strong employer brand that resonates with their target talent pool. They can help SMBs articulate their unique value proposition, culture, and growth opportunities, ensuring that the organization stands out as an attractive employer. These consultants can also provide guidance on how to effectively communicate the employer brand across various channels to attract the best talent.

3. Recruitment Process Optimization: Recruitment service provider can help SMBs, same as LCEs, optimize their recruitment processes, making them more efficient and effective. Consultants can review and streamline the entire hiring process, from job postings and candidate screening to interview techniques and selection methodologies. By improving the candidate experience and ensuring a smooth and timely process, SMBs can enhance their reputation as an employer of choice.

4. Candidate Sourcing and Evaluation: Consulting firms specializing in talent acquisition can assist SMBs in sourcing and evaluating candidates. They can leverage their networks and resources to identify top talent and conduct thorough assessments, including skill evaluations, cultural fit analysis, and background checks. By leveraging external expertise, SMBs can access a broader candidate pool and make well-informed hiring decisions.

5. Compensation and Benefits Consulting: Attracting and retaining top talent often requires competitive compensation and benefits packages. SMBs can engage consulting firms that specialize in compensation and benefits to ensure their offerings align with industry standards and meet the expectations of high-caliber candidates. These consultants can provide insights into market trends, salary benchmarks, and innovative benefit options, enabling SMBs to remain competitive in talent acquisition.

6. Training and Development Programs: SMBs can leverage consulting services to design and implement training and development programs. These programs not only help attract talent but also contribute to employee retention and growth.

Consultants can identify skill gaps, design customized training modules, and provide guidance on employee development initiatives, ensuring that SMBs create a culture of continuous learning and professional advancement.

By utilizing consulting services in talent acquisition, SMBs can access specialized expertise, best practices, and industry insights that are typically associated with larger companies. This approach enables SMBs to compete for top talent on a more level playing field, enhancing their ability to attract and retain the best candidates.

By John Elf

John Elf is Head of Marketing at Vibertron GYPOTech, and an Honorary Contributor at ‘Voice of EU’. A version of this article has already been published.

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Imandra’s AI Innovation Boosts Operational Resilience While Transforming European Exchanges

Imandra’s AI Innovation Transforming European Exchanges

Revolutionizing the landscape of European exchanges, Imandra, an AI startup at the forefront of automated reasoning technology, is making waves with its groundbreaking solutions. Offering a suite of AI-powered services through its flagship product, Imandra Markets, the company is reshaping the way exchanges and trading venues operate, test, and improve their systems.

Imandra Markets leverages advanced AI and digital twin technology to provide exchanges with tools for designing, testing, and auditing complex financial systems. This innovative approach enhances business intelligence and system resiliency, ultimately ensuring compliance and correct implementation while meeting regulatory obligations.

The significance of Imandra’s impact is evident, as its technology now supervises exchange technology responsible for a quarter of all European equities trading. By digitizing venue design and creating ‘digital twins’ powered by automated reasoning AI, Imandra Markets allows exchanges to test and enhance their system operational resiliency, mitigating the risk of outages and failed technology upgrades.

Market outages, with their far-reaching consequences, have prompted regulatory bodies to seek solutions for improving market-wide resilience. The IOSCO Consultation Report, released in December 2023, underscores the importance of addressing software-related issues, which have been responsible for the majority of market outages. Imandra’s Chief Strategy Officer, Paul Brennan, emphasizes the significance of their technology in preemptively identifying defects and inefficiencies, thereby averting potential disruptions before they impact the market.

Imandra Markets empowers organizations to implement changes to their financial infrastructure confidently, ensuring predictability and unlocking avenues for innovation and revenue enhancement. With Imandra’s solutions, newly designed or updated systems can be brought to market more efficiently, allowing for a leap forward in governance and operational excellence.

Imandra’s groundbreaking AI technology is reshaping the operational landscape of European exchanges, offering a cost-effective and efficient approach to system design, testing, and auditing. As the financial industry continues to evolve, Imandra remains at the forefront, driving innovation and ensuring the resilience and reliability of exchange systems.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Darren Wilson | Team ‘The Voice Of EU

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Innovative Kite Sail Technology Startup Paves the Way for Greener Shipping Industry | “EU20”

The maritime sector faces increasing pressure to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Recently, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced new emissions-reduction targets. In this piece, we will analyze:

  • Beyond The Sea’s Revolutionary Kite Sail Technology
  • A Game-Changer for the Maritime Industry
  • Expanding Possibilities and Environmental Commitments
Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Government Support

Future Opportunities

In response, startups like Beyond The Sea are revolutionizing the industry with their innovative kite sail technology. With the ability to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, these kite sails have the potential to transform the way ships and vessels operate.

In response, startups like Beyond The Sea are revolutionizing the industry with their innovative kite sail technology. With the ability to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, these kite sails have the potential to transform the way ships and vessels operate.

Beyond The Sea’s Revolutionary Kite Sail Technology

In southwest France’s Arcachon Bay, Beyond The Sea conducted successful tests of their blue inflatable kite sail. The company’s founder, Yves Parlier, combined his sailing expertise with artificial intelligence and automated traction systems to develop a highly efficient kite sail. This innovative technology adapts the sail’s position based on wind conditions, resulting in significant fuel savings.

A Game-Changer for the Maritime Industry

The impact of kite sails on the maritime industry cannot be understated. With approximately 100,000 merchant ships and 4.6 million fishing trawlers worldwide, the potential for widespread adoption of this technology is enormous. The Wind Ship association predicts that by 2030, the market for kite sails could be worth four billion euros, with around 1,400 vessels equipped with this sustainable solution.


Expanding Possibilities and Environmental Commitments

Beyond The Sea plans to further develop their kite sail technology. In upcoming tests off the waters of Norway, Japan, and the Mediterranean, they will explore larger kite sizes, aiming to reach 800 square meters within four years. Meanwhile, other companies like Airseas and Chantiers de l’Atlantique are also pioneering alternative solutions, such as larger kites for larger ships and rigid sails for ocean liners.

Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Government Support

While the wind propulsion sector shows promise, challenges remain. The cost of heavy fuel oil and the need for environmental regulations are key considerations. Lobbying for wind to be recognized as a fuel, the sector is working closely with the French government to create a supportive regulatory framework.

Recognizing wind as a viable fuel source could not only accelerate the adoption of wind propulsion technology but also create over 30,000 new jobs by 2030.

Future Opportunities

The innovative kite sail technology developed by Beyond The Sea and other companies presents a game-changing opportunity for the maritime industry. With the ability to significantly reduce fuel consumption and emissions, these sustainable solutions align with the industry’s growing focus on environmental responsibility.

By harnessing the power of the wind, the maritime sector can chart a course toward a greener and more sustainable future.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Johnathan Elf, Contributor ‘The Voice of EU

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— Anonymous News Submissions:

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