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Telephone shoppers are putting their credit cards at risk of fraud

February 2014 by Semafone

New research commissioned by Semafone has revealed that many of us are putting ourselves at risk of fraud by reading credit and debit numbers out loud in public places. The age group revealed to be taking the largest risk was 25-34 year-olds, of whom 30% admitted to reading their card details out loud in the street and 22% in an open plan office. Older shoppers were shown to be the most cautious group, with 91% of over 55s stating that they had never read their card details out loud in a public place at all.

Surprisingly, the youngest group surveyed, which included 18-24 year olds, showed slightly less risky behaviour than the 25-34 year old group, with just under 30% having read card details out loud in public. This age group, however, also contained the largest percentage of people admitting to reading card details aloud on public transport; almost 17%, compared with just 1.33% of over-55s.

Tim Critchley, CEO of Semafone, commented, “Paying by telephone is still extremely popular because it’s quick, it’s easy, and there’s someone on the end of the line to provide help. In fact telephone payments account for one in eight of the UK’s card transactions. It is clear from this survey, however, that many of us are not applying the same standards of security to telephone payments that we would to online transactions.”

“Nobody would dream of saying their PIN number out loud in a public place, but unfortunately, once we are on the phone, we will often provide our card number, 3 digit security code and address without a second thought, blocking out everything around us and forgetting that we can be overheard.”

According to research from academic institutions including Princeton University, our ability to perceive the world around us is severely limited when we are speaking on the phone. This is due to “cognitive load” - human brains are unable to maintain full awareness of their surroundings when engaged in a telephone conversation, making us less likely to notice eavesdroppers.

The risk from telephone payment fraud is twofold:

- From card details being overheard in the street

- From the call centre itself.

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