View Full Version : British police - tracing movements of a suspect via credit/debit card purchases

11-25-2012, 04:38 PM
I've got a scenario in my WIP in which a specialist police unit are trying to trace the whereabouts of a suspect. I was thinking of having them locate him by discovering a recent purchase for ferry tickets to Calais. Is such a thing possible? The person in question was a former employee and they have access to some personal information.

The story is set a little way into the future, so even if such a thing is not possible/current practice, is it feasible that it may be at some point in time?

Many thanks :)

11-25-2012, 05:44 PM
It's certainly possible, and has been for some time. Robert Black, the abductor/killer was convicted based on petrol receipts that placed him at certain places and times.
Whether you can do it quickly now, moment by moemnt, I don't know. I would expect the police would have to show due cause. Purely technically, I'd say it's very possible today.

Drachen Jager
11-25-2012, 08:43 PM
Credit card companies receive the information instantly if the purchase is electronic (and very few businesses still use the carbon-copy system). Police can gain access to that information if they have the proper legal documentation (a warrant here, I have no idea what the equivalent would be in Europe). Presuming his credit card company is in the U.K. it shouldn't be too hard, if the company is from another country that would add a layer of legal difficulty for the police.

11-25-2012, 09:03 PM
Also, something to keep in mind, that most people on the run have seen a lot of TV and the first thing any criminal on the run does is switch to cash. Even though TV is fiction it is still largely based in reality, everyone now a days knows that credit is traceable. :)

11-25-2012, 09:11 PM
And because of that, I think most readers would accept your scenario. They might think your villian is a bit of an idiot but they wouldn't think the police couldn't do it.

11-26-2012, 12:48 AM
Not even an idiot, necessarily, just in a hurry, and not thinking it through.
When I buy something on-line, I expect it to be put on the card immediately, but until I read this thread, I still sort of vaguely assumed that a card used 'in person' would have to be processed in the store, then sent in. (Based on my memories of working retail, 30 years ago.)
So, I could understand your crafty villian making a momentary slip, not realizing that he could be tracked in 'real-time'.