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Why the Lloyds Avios Amex fraud happened (probably)

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As a follow-up to my recent articles on the major fraud in the US on Lloyds Avios Rewards American Express cards, I was contacted last week by a reader who works in the credit card industry on the fraud side who explained how he believed it had happened.

You may remember that Lloyds Bank claimed to be the innocent party in all this.  The line given to the media, including me, was that there had been a data breach somewhere on the American Express side.

This had a funny smell to it, as I said to all of the journalists who contacted me.  The fraudsters had made fully working American Express credit cards.  I found it unlikely, to put it mildly, that you could make a fully working plastic Amex card just from knowing the card number.

The reader thought that Lloyds Bank does not appear to have implemented two important security features on its credit cards. 

Firstly, he believes that the Lloyds Bank / Amex processing system does not verify most of the key card information, including the expiry date, before transactions are approved.  The net result of this is that you only need the credit card number in order to manufacture a fake Lloyds Bank American Express credit card.  As the first six digits of Lloyds Bank American Express cards appear to be the same for all cards, it is easier to churn through various permutations to find working numbers even if there was no data breach.

In addition, the reader believes that Lloyds does not appear to match the data from the card terminal (which tells Lloyds whether a transaction is chip, swipe or a contactless tap) with the security data used for verification.  If this was right, it would mean that it would accept the lower level of verification required for contactless transactions – and this is low level verification because contactless fraud is virtually impossible – even when the transaction was not contactless.  It is apparently possible to overwrite the magnetic strip on a real credit card (issuer and card number immaterial) with the lower level of data required to validate a contactless transaction which would be charged to a Lloyds Avios Amex account.

I should stress that we don’t know if any of the above is actually true, but the hypothesis does appear to fit the known facts in this case.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – May 2024 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

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You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

HUGE 60,000 POINTS BONUS UNTIL 3rd JULY and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

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Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:

American Express Business Platinum

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American Express Business Gold

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Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

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For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.

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Comments (106)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • johnny_c-l says:

    On the Zeek offer they have various Amazon vouchers @ 1/2% discount so these are now valid for the free £5 when spending £50 offer. Picked up a few of these earlier on today.

  • Bctraveler says:

    Good luck with the maple leaf club and star alliance access… i was dnied at no less than 6 star alliance lounges with m maple leaf lunge card. All AC said was sorry. 700 dollars of sorry

    • Alex Sm says:

      Actually, their own lounges are of little value too. I recently did a lounge crawl at Heathrow T2B cluster – United was 5* with great ambience, cocktails and food, Singapore was ok (the downside was it was too crowded as it was just before a packed A380 flight, perhaps at quieter times it will look better, but AC was unevenful and the mixer drinks they offered were from Waitrose Essential range. Waitrose Essential for premium travellers, Carl!

  • signol says:

    I now buy Amazon gift cards at Morrisons, to get their points. Works out at a few % back.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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