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Richard Edmonds of Chippenham Auction Rooms contacted ATG about the latest incident to warn others after a fraud which took place in June but, because of the way the credit card companies work, has only just been uncovered.

He said: "We have had two separate instances where a client has booked a telephone line to bid on several lots of gold. They have supplied their full name, address, and some credit/debit card details for security. These items were then paid for over the telephone using different cards and then collected straight away, once by taxi. Both cards used to pay for these items, it turns out, were stolen."

ATG has run numerous similar reports in the past six months, in particular about the risks of credit card fraud, and many cases involve gold and addresses given in London, especially North London and the surrounding area, such as Potters Bar.

The costs of such fraud for firms can be serious. "This amounts to over £5000, which for a small firm such as ours is crippling," Mr Edmonds added.

"The first of these problems relates to a sale in June, as apparently the card firms can pull money back up to 120 days after the transaction. We pay out our vendors ten working days after the sale."

In May, ATG reported how a Glasgow auction house had become a trailblazer in tackling the problem of credit card fraud by no longer accepting payments over the phone and only taking them online.