Almost half a billion dollars worth of card (and cheque) transactions made in Australia last year were fraudulent according to new official data released by the Australian Payments Clearing Association. Booming online fraud is driving the rate of credit and debit card fraud to new highs. Criminals, often from overseas, are breaching websites and hacking card details of Australian credit card users and using those details to access the victim's credit. Criminals either create new cards with the victim's details or use the number, name and expiry date to buy goods and services or access cash online or via phone or postal shopping and banking. Acting APCA CEO Andy White said: -Criminals are targeting those [point of sale] terminals that are still mag stripe only and Australian cards have been caught up in this fraud. Large scale data breaches are also contributing to the growing level of online card fraud.-- A large scale data breach is usually a hack of a large website holding the personal details of previous customers. Many websites hold personal details such as credit card numbers, home addresses, email addresses, date of birth and phone numbers.

Recent data breaches of Australian shopping sites include:

Recent large scale data breaches in Australia include the K-Mart hack of October 2015. K-Mart use ANZ's cyber security system and no consumer credit card information was lost. The David Jones site was also hacked but credit card details were kept safely behind a payments gateway. The Aussie Farmers Direct website leaked 5,000 customer files, including names and addresses in late 2015 but no credit card details were revealed by the hackers who tried to blackmail the company. The Aussie Travel Cover site was hacked by a teenager who posted the names, home addresses and partial credit card numbers of 870,000 ATC customers online. Dating website Ashley Madison leaked the, usually secret, personal details of 37 million members to hackers. This event has been linked to at least two suicides. Two weeks ago, an alleged hack at AdultFriendFinder's website has revealed the personal details of 412 million user profiles to criminals. More than 270 million email usernames and passwords have been distributed in Russian criminal networks in 2016 including almost 100 million Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email usernames and passwords. LinkedIn leaked 117 million email and password combinations to hackers in 2016.

How can I protect my credit card from hackers?

Almost half of all identity theft is about stealing your personal details to create a fake credit card or to apply for a credit card in your name. You can protect your credit card and personal information by following these simple tips from the Australia Federal Police: · Secure your (physical) mail box with a lock and clear it regularly · Destroy your personal and financial papers before you throw them away · Cover the keypad at ATMs or on EFTPOS terminals when entering your PIN · Ensure that the virus and security software on your computers and mobile devices is up-to-date · Don't use public computers or unsecured wireless 'hotspots' to do your internet banking or make payments · Be cautious of who you provide your personal and financial information to. You can ask to see a copy of the Privacy Policy of the business before you supply your details · Only use trusted online payment websites for items won at online auctions · Obtain a copy of your credit history report and report any unauthorised transactions or entries ASAP · Take care with personal details on social media and don't accept unsolicited 'friend' requests

Am I a victim of Identity Theft?

The Australia Federal Police say you may be a victim of identity theft if:

  1. You have lost important documents such as your passport or driving licence
  2. You are not getting expected mail from your bank
  3. has not arrived or you are receiving no post at all.
  4. items have appeared on your bank or credit card statements that you don't recognise
  5. You applied for a Centrelink benefit but you were told that you are already claiming
  6. You get bills or invoices addressed to you for goods or services you haven't asked for
  7. You have been refused a credit card or a loan, despite having a good credit history
  8. A mobile phone contract has been set up in your name
  9. You have received letters from debt collectors for debts that aren't yours.

Australian banks and credit unions will not expect you to cover criminal fraud. Any money taken from your account will be repaid by the bank if they are satisfied that your data and money have been stolen. You can research and compare credit cards from all of Australia's major banks, credit unions and other credit card issuers here. Stay safe! Source: