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Better Watch Out: How to Avoid Identity Theft during the Festive Season

Posted December 08, 2015 by Jenny Green

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“People get distracted at this time of year,” said one security industry expert. “When you get distracted and you’re not thinking about security, you become vulnerable.”

Of course, that’s what identity thieves are counting on, and that’s why all organisations should encourage their employees to be extra vigilant about identity theft protection at this time of year. 

Fraud costs the UK economy approximately £52 billion pounds annually, according to figures from the National Fraud Authority.

The single biggest threat is identity theft, which is when criminals steal personal data to impersonate an innocent victim or to create identities to steal more information or money. According to the UK fraud prevention service CIFAS, identity fraud accounted for 41% of all frauds recorded in 2014.

There are high risk demographics for identity theft too: last year there were increases in the numbers of young adults targeted and increases in the over 60's age group. Men were victims almost twice as often as women.

Here are some of the workplace-related risks - and solutions - every business should be aware of during the festive season:   

ONLINE SHOPPING:  CIFAS reports that 82% of identity fraud is committed online. Identity thieves create bogus shopping sites, and they also order products or services in a company name, and use stolen cheques or credit cards for payment.

Solutions: For identity theft protection, practical safeguarding strategies are key. Never click on a provided link without verifying the source. If a price seems too good to be true, it’s probably a phishing scam. Have your accounts team carefully check purchases and invoices to make sure they are real. Use purchase tracking numbers from the original purchase to track deliveries. 

OFFICE PARTY: If seasonal festivities are going to be held in the office, there’s an increased risk of information theft.

Solutions: Vulnerable areas such as printers should (always) be cleared of sensitive information. Enforce a Clean Desk Policy. For secure destruction of information that is no longer needed, partner with a shredding company that provides locked consoles for documents, and secure on- or off-site shredding services.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Many employees post work-related activities on their social media pages. But information thieves mine these sites for personal details.

Solutions: Include guidelines for acceptable posting in your organisation’s data security plan.

DIGITAL GREETING CARDS: Many businesses and individuals send seasonal e-cards... but identity thieves send out digital greeting cards too that are loaded with malware.

Solutions: The safest way to get an e-card is to go to the greeting card company’s site and use the card ID number listed in the email.

HOLIDAYS: When employees take time off, they often work remotely to keep up. That means files are leaving the office and corporate data will be accessed. Plus, more than 1 in 4 mobile phones are lost or stolen every year in the UK.

Solutions: Create a strict mobile device policy about what information can or can’t leave the office; emphasise that mobile devices must be protected at all times. Equip computers with anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes, strong passwords, and encryption. There should be information destruction protocols when offsite too.

Identify all the threats in your workplace with a DIY Security Risk Assessment. Minimise security risks with secure paper shredding services


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