A new collaborative report issued by Cifas – the UK’s leading fraud prevention service – and LexisNexis Risk Solutions (an information solutions provider that helps organisations to assess, manage and predict risk) highlights that company directors are one of the most ‘at risk’ groups for identity fraud. Nearly 19% of identity fraud victims are company directors, despite those individuals comprising less than 9% of the UK’s population.
Furthermore, the report also identifies a trend whereby identity fraudsters targeting company directors are attempting to obtain credit files as a precursor to committing identity fraud. Nearly half (47%) of recorded identity frauds involving the fraudulent procurement of credit files from company directors took place in London and the South East, with 28% coming from the capital. This contrasts sharply with comparatively safe regions such as Wales and the North East which accounted for just 2% of these fraud cases respectively.
The report uses research spanning three-and-a-half years of impersonation data extracted from Cifas’ National Fraud Database, which contains the details of impersonation recorded by its member organisations, and is further qualified thanks to additional data provided by LexisNexis Risk Solutions.
Not only were company directors statistically more likely to be the victims of fraud, but as is the case with other victims, they were also found to be at risk from multiple impersonations, with 17% of director-level victims suffering impersonation fraud more than once across the three-and-a-half year period. This comes at a time when identity fraud is at an all-time high, having risen by over 68% since 2010 to almost 173,000 individual cases in 2016.
The report also shows that company directors who fell victim to fraud were likely to be younger than other groups who were impersonated. Nearly a third (28%) of director-level fraud victims were in their 30s. This contradicts any notion that identity fraudsters deliberately target older people based on their perceived affluence and status in life and instead find greater success with younger generations who are likely to have a typically larger digital footprint.
Information in the public domain
Lady Barbara Judge CBE, chairman of Cifas, commented: “With almost one in every two crimes committed now an act of fraud or an episode of cyber crime, company directors are increasingly aware of the need to have the right systems and processes in place to protect their staff and customers from the growing threat. This research reveals that they themselves are at an increased risk of identity fraud in comparison to the rest of the UK.”
The Cifas chairman continued: “There will always be more publicly available information about you if you run your own business compared to other individuals. I, however, would encourage company directors to do as much as possible to separate their personal and company personas. Limit the personal information you share on social media and professional networking sites and, what’s more, proactively check your credit file and your accounts. The quicker you spot that your details have been used fraudulently, the easier it will be to limit the damage caused.”
Steve Arnison, commercial director at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, has also commented on the report. “This research demonstrates once again that identity fraud is a prevalent threat to businesses and individuals alike. With company directors falling into the ‘high risk’ category for impersonations, it’s especially important for organisations to use data intelligently in order to protect consumers in the fight against fraud.”
Arnison added: “Many cases of fraud are entirely preventable and, indeed, avoidable. They arise from exploited personal information that’s readily available to identity thieves and insufficient identity management processes being put in place. Companies can prioritise their focus on preventing personal data breaches, but also assess patterns and similarities in fraud cases to identify threats. Stronger identity management technology is the key to organisations stopping identity fraudsters in their tracks.”
List of strategies
In light of the report’s findings, Cifas and LexisNexis Risk Solutions have compiled a list of strategies aimed at enabling company directors to protect themselves:
*Check your credit file: A quick and easy piece of advice for everyone is to always keep a close eye on anything suspicious appearing on your credit file. Fraudsters will often access a victim’s credit file first to see if it’s an identity worth using. By reviewing yours regularly, you can spot any suspicious activity before it’s too late.
*Think about your digital footprint: Make things more difficult for the fraudsters by limiting what personal information is available in the public domain either on social media or professional networking sites. Also, listing a business address rather than a home address on public director registers is advisable. The fewer pieces of the jigsaw a fraudster can accumulate, the harder it will be for them to impersonate someone.
*Don’t forget about paperwork and post: Shred all of your financial documents before you throw them away and remember to redirect your mail if you change address or move home.