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For organisations of all sizes, preventing fraud is better than dealing with the tough consequences. In this issue we will discuss the growing threat of identity crimes directed against businesses and the legal response from the British government.
As identity theft continues to be the fastest growing form of consumer fraud, government bodies have made the protection of personal information a priority. However, a growing trend is proving that it’s not just customer data that thieves are after. Fraudsters are now obtaining information about companies and assuming their business identities in order to steal company assets, client lists and credit information or secure new business relationships and payments. British companies large and small are vulnerable to breaches in data security and risk financial damages and reputational losses resulting from business identity theft.
Identity fraud costs the UK £2.7b a year and affects over 1.8 million people. One in two victims have lost money as a result, with the average amount lost being £1,190 per victim. Identity thieves can be third-parties, employees, competitors and even suppliers—and they are using increasingly sophisticated measures to steal confidential business data and commit business identity fraud.1
With all the risks associated with data breaches, why don’t more business owners report the theft of company information? In some cases, large companies don’t notice small breaches in their data security structures until after fraud has been committed. Medium-sized and small businesses owners often don’t report information breaches, because they believe that their operations would be adversely affected if the breach were publicised.
The Home Office, in collaboration with other government departments and private sector organisations, is engaged in a variety of activity to tackle identity theft and identity fraud.
The National Fraud Authority (NFA) was launched on 1 October 2008 with the aim of making the UK a hostile environment for fraudsters. The NFA oversees and provides a strategic framework to the work being carried out to tackle fraud in general, including the formation of an Identity Crime Task Force.
The Data Protection Act also gives the Information Commissioner’s Office the power to fine businesses up to £500,000 for serious breaches. These powers are likely to increase following the reforms currently being made to the EU Data Protection Directive.
Theft of paper documents and electronic data occurs in many forms, from documents being taken from recycling bins and rubbish baskets to hacking into company networks. Often, fraud is committed when files are left out in the open and visitors are able to steal copy or snap a photo of information that should be kept confidential. Furthermore, some organisations do not take proper steps to securely destroy their private data.
The growing mobile workforce and shift to cloud computing are leaving organisations increasingly vulnerable to electronic security breaches and the theft of sensitive business data online.
Consider how identity thieves are stealing the information required to assume a company’s identity and take steps to prevent it. Here are some tips to help you ward of fraudsters:
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