Figures from Financial Fraud Action UK and The UK Cards Association show a rise in telephone-based fraud targeting British credit and debit card holders' PINs.
According to the intelligence released today, the scam has already led to more than £7.5 million worth of fraud on credit and debit cards between January and August this year. During that period alone, over 1,600 banking customers have become victims, with the typical financial loss for each case standing at more than £4,200.
Police have warned of a sharp rise in reported cases of this type of fraud, with the estimated amount stolen over the first eight months of 2012 already ten times the amount stolen during all of 2011.
Elderly and vulnerable banking customers appear to be most at risk from these criminal gangs - with 69 being the average age of victims. London, Strathclyde and Surrey have been highlighted as particular hotspots for this scam.
The scam works by a criminal phoning up a bank customer and pretending to be someone from their bank. The victim is told that their credit/debit card needs collecting and replacing following fraudulent activity. Worryingly, the fraudster reassures the victim that the call is legitimate by getting them to call the bank's number - all the while staying on the line to trick the customer into thinking they're on a new call to their bank.
The phone criminal will then ask the person to supply their PIN, before sending a courier to collect the card and inadvertently deliver it straight into the hands of the fraudster - who can then withdraw money from the victim's bank account.
Yet perhaps most worrying of all is the fact some customers don't realise that bank staff will never request their PIN or card. In fact, more than one in ten (12%) of bank customers are unaware that they should never give out their PIN - which means many could risk falling foul of fraudsters.
DCI Dave Carter, Head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), said: "This fraud relies on deception of the customer, who cases show is often elderly and vulnerable, sometimes alone in the house, and who often takes the fraudster's word at face value. While these new figures confirm that this scam is on a steep rise, we can all protect ourselves and our relatives by remembering that banks will never ask for either your card or your PIN."