Seven percent of UK credit card holders were hit by plastic fraud in 2010, a survey by credit protection company CPP has found, which represents an encouraging 3 percent fall compared to 2009. Average fraud losses were also lower.

Questioning a sample of 2,009 people, the top fraud hotspot turned out to be affluent Brighton, with 38 percent of those surveyed complaining of having experienced the crime, followed by London (34 per cent), Manchester (33 per cent), Bristol and Leeds at joint fourth place (32 percent) and Edinburgh (31 per cent).

Most fraud incidents are traced to straight card cloning after an encounter with a crooked teller or tampered ATM machine, which is still considerably more common than online-related fraud. A third of those surveyed had no idea how their card details were stolen, with some only finding out when their card was refused during a transaction.

The average amount stolen was £417 ($665), somewhat down on last year’s average of £590, with only 4 percent reporting fraud of more than £2,000.

Last year’s top town for plastic fraud was Cardiff, so it’s hard to know whether to read much into the location figures. Most towns have a moderate problem with this type of crime.

What is intriguing is the possibility that fraud levels are reducing and this might have something to do with protection systems put in place by credit card issuers.

“In particular, online fraud has decreased, which could be a result of industry initiatives such as Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode,” noted CPP fraud expert, Sarah Blaney.