Think the idea of having your identity stolen is a bit far-fetched? Believe it or not, ID fraud is a major, on-going issue, with the UK’s fraud prevention service, CIFAS, recording over 100,000 victims of identity crime every year since 2009.
Figures by Financial Fraud Action UK in March 2014 showed that levels of card and online banking fraud rose during 2013, with intelligence suggesting that criminals are now targeting individual consumers and small businesses. Fraud losses on UK cards reached £450.4 million in 2013, 16% higher than 2012.
The issue isn’t just a problem for the individual, as businesses that lose data can be fined up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act.
Here are some sensible precautions that can keep the risk of ID fraud to a minimum:
1. Protect information
It’s all about information. Criminals steal identities by gaining access to personal or confidential information and using it to order goods or services, take out loans, credit cards or open bank accounts in someone else’s name.
Think very carefully about who you give information to and never give personal or company information to people calling from companies that the business has not dealt with before. Never give personal or financial details, such as your PIN number, to anyone over the phone claiming to be from the police or your bank. If you think the call is legitimate always check the identity of the person by calling them back.
Never respond to emails asking for personal, company or financial information. Be especially careful when sending this type of information over the internet and always check for the lock symbol which signals that personal information is secure during transmission.
2. Lock it away
Always keep company and confidential documents secure, preferably in a locked drawer or room with limited access.
3. Cross shred
Always shred any unwanted documents containing company or personal information immediately. Ideally invest in a cross cut or micro cut shredder which offers a much higher security level than a strip cut shredder and make sure you buy one with CD/DVD shredding functionality.
4. Secure mobile devices
Many people are using personal devices such as iPhones and iPads to answer work emails. Ensure these devices are password protected to stop sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
5. Use Companies House
Register with Companies House and sign up to their Electronic Filing, PROOF & Monitor services which will help to prevent fraudsters changing the names of your directors and effectively ‘hijacking’ your company.
6. Keep staff in the loop
Make sure that all staff are fully aware of the risk of identity fraud. Create a clear set of guidelines concerning the handling, storage, sharing and disposal of sensitive information, both on and offline.
7. Check out customers
Always check the identity of your customers. Business and consumer credit reference agencies offer a wide range of solutions to authenticate and verify the existence and identity of customers.
8. Consider protective registration
Anyone who has recently lost personal documents or believes they are at risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud can take out CIFAS Protective Registration. This places a warning ‘flag’ marked Protective Registration on a national fraud database against the individual’s name and personal details. It alerts any organisation dealing with applications for a range of products and services and using CIFAS data, that the individual is at risk and that they must undertake additional checks to verify whether or not an application is genuine.
9. Use the right products
Products that are vital tools in the fight against fraud include anti-virus software, shredders and encrypted flash and USB drives which protect files and documents if someone gets their hands on them.Laptop locking cables to protect devices being stolen are useful, as are privacy filters, particularly for mobile devices, as these stop people overseeing any data being worked on.