Two years since it began, the UK's dedicated credit card fraud squad has managed to return more than 36,000 cards to members of the public.
The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) targets the organised gangs responsible for most UK card frauds and during the two-year pilot period made 171 arrests.
These arrests have subsequently led to 52 convictions.
Card counterfeiters take copies of debit and credit cards, meaning the owner does not report them as stolen. Typical scams involve extra card readers placed at cash points (often with a hidden camera to read the pin number as well) and staff at shops and restaurants running customer's cards through a 'skimmer' when unobserved.
Tips to avoid being caught out by fraudsters include inspecting cash points before you use them and shielding your pin number. Consumers are also advised to never let their card out of sight at shops and restaurants and told that it only needs to be read by one machine.
The DCPU says it has focused on scams carried out by counterfeiting gangs who often run sophisticated factory-style operations.
Additionally, its work had helped combat more serious criminal activity such as the trade in drugs, illegal immigrants and counterfeit goods - all of which are often funded by profits from card fraud.
Detective chief inspector Tony Thomas, who is in charge of the unit, said: "With more staff joining us in the near future I have no doubt that our track record of beating these criminals will not only be maintained but will be significantly improved."
In 2003 alone, around £400 million was lost to card fraud in the UK and high street banks have now pledged £3 million a year to keep the unit operating.
The upcoming roll out of chip and pin cards, where consumers type in a four digit number instead of signing for goods, is anticipated to heavily cut card crime.DeHavilland Information Services plc