• “Maximum” sentence for most non-cash payment fraud must mean at least four years in prison 
  • Improved EU-wide cooperation to tackle cross-border fraud better 
  • Rights of cybercrime victims to be better protected 

New EU rules to protect EU citizens against non-cash payment fraud, such as credit card theft, skimming or phishing, were approved in committee on Monday.

The Civil Liberties Committee approved plans to combat fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment such as cards, electronic wallets, mobile payments and virtual currencies.

MEPs stress that gaps and differences among EU countries’ laws can hamper prevention, detection and punishment of these crimes.

The new rules would:

  • establish five, four or three years of prison, depending on the offence, as the minimum penalty in cases where a judge imposes the national “maximum” custodial sentence for non-cash payment fraud,
  • include virtual-currency transactions in the scope of offences,
  • improve EU-wide cooperation to ensure cross-border frauds are better dealt with,
  • strengthen assistance to non-cash fraud victims, such as psychological support, advice on financial, practical and legal matters and free legal aid at least for those who lack sufficient resources for it, and
  • improve prevention and awareness-raising, e.g. through campaigning, education and permanent on-line information tools with practical examples of fraud cases.

Non-cash payments are constantly increasing in the digital era. This has made non-cash payment fraud, such as credit card theft or fraud using newer technologies such as skimming or phishing, an important source of income for organised crime.

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Rapporteur Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (S&D, DE) said “Digitalization has transformed the way we pay. As non-cash payments are used more and more, criminals exploit loopholes in the current rules. In today's vote we managed to harmonise the definitions of online crime offences throughout the EU, introduce a minimum level for penalties for them and improve the protection of victims of non-cash fraud.”

Next steps

The draft report was approved by 31 votes to 1, with no abstentions.

The committee also approved a mandate to start informal talks with the Council, which can start as soon as Parliament as a whole gives its green light.