Tourists in US at greater risk of credit card fraud compared to Australia

By Roisin Kelly-Goldsmith ·

Australian tourists in the US are more likely to have their credit card details stolen than back home because of lagging merchant terminal technology, warned a payments industry body.

Data from the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA) revealed that counterfeit and “skimming” credit card fraud overseas increased for Australians in 2014 by 77% to $28.1 million.

Acting CEO of APCA, Andy White, noted that such fraudulent activity, particularly in the US, is occurring at the point of sale and online.

“As the US progressively rolls out chip technology, criminals are targeting those 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 credit card fraud,” he said.

An Australian couple recently got stung on their honeymoon in the US when a criminal “skimmed” their credit card and made $6,000 worth of unauthorised payments.

"It was quite a bit of a downer," Czarlette Menzagopian told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Menzagopian noticed something wasn’t quite right when her card wouldn’t work at a hotel. It took several days for her bank to detect the fraud before it cancelled her card. This is despite the couple "signing everywhere" and not letting their cards out of sight while away.

"We were travelling on to Cuba and Central America where we expected those places might have issues but not Miami," she said.

Tips on keeping your travel money safe while overseas:

  • Don’t let the waiter take off with your card. Ensure all card payments are made right in front of you.
  • Set up email notifications for all internet banking transactions. This piece of advice was given by the CEO of People’s Choice Credit Union, Steve Laidlaw.
  • Use a prepaid travel card and keep the balance low. While it comes down to personal preference, remember, you can always top up online while you’re there.
  • Have a backup payment option just in case. You don’t want to be waiting for a replacement card in the mail, especially if you’re going to be hopping from one city to the next.