There has been a significant decrease in the level of payment card fraud in Ireland in the past year, with just over €20m lost to fraud on Irish cards in 2012.

Figures released today from the Irish Payment Services Organisation show that almost €20.4m was lost to card fraud last year.

Card fraud was closely split between credit and debit cards, with €9.5m fraudulently spent on credit cards, €10.4m on debit cards and €0.4m on ATM cards.

Total gross card fraud for 2012 represented a 21% decrease on the 2011 level (€25.7m).

The IPSO said the decrease was a result of pro-active anti-skimming measures and other protections put in place by banks and retailers.

A spokesperson for IPSO said that it and the card-issuing banks were working closely with the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, which had resulted in a clampdown on skimming gangs.

It said a number of significant arrests had been made.

The new figures show that most card frauds (79%) were carried out when the card was not present.

In those cases criminals had obtained genuine card numbers and then used them to purchase goods on the internet, by mail order or over the phone.

14% of card fraud was carried out by skimming; with cards physically copied by criminals at ATMs or retail points of sale and are then used in countries which do not have chip and pin technology.

4% of card fraud carried out in 2012 used lost or stolen cards, and 2% related to circumstances where post containing either cards or pin numbers had been intercepted.

The total value of card sales increased last year, with a total of €24.2bn spent on credit and debit cards in 2012.

€10.5bn was spent on credit cards, and €13.7bn was spent on debit cards.

Card fraud accounted for 0.08% of all card sales in 2012, down from 2011, when it represented 0.11% of all card sales.

Of the €20.4m gross card fraud in 2012, €13.6m was recovered by card issuers through charge backs, refunds and recoveries which were absorbed by retailers, mostly based outside of Ireland.

The net €6.8m was absorbed by the card-issuing banks here.