Avoiding business identity theft

When we think of identity theft, we usually think of someone stealing our credit card or other personal details online. Personal identity theft is one of the biggest crimes of our time, businesses often don't realise that they, too, can become victims.

Unfortunately, thousands of companies are suffering from the effects of criminals stealing the identity of not only the business itself, but also that of their staff. The latest estimates show this crime is costing the global economy hundreds of millions, at a time when it can least afford such losses.

Corporate directors face an increasing threat

One fifth of all cases of identity fraud occur against company directors - a disproportionately high number of all cases of identity fraud in the UK. The identities of the directors are then used to create new accounts and obtain finance and enter contracts under the director's name.

An article in the FT from June 2017 about fraudsters targeting UK directors via Companies House.

Sometimes fraudsters target a company by changing their details with Companies House, a surprisingly easy thing to do. Generally, once this has happened, the people who have targeted the company then set up a parallel version of your company - with a nearly-identical version of your website, address, etc and target the public, along with suppliers, leaving a trail of unpaid bills and claims of fraud in their wake. This leaves your business with the task of not only cleaning up the mess caused by the fraud from a financial standpoint, but also with public relations and consumer confidence.

A great credit record can be too much of a temptation for identity thieves

A company’s credit rating can make them prime targets for corporate ID theft. Many companies deal in large amounts of money daily, so the odd thousand pounds here and there is unlikely to be checked thoroughly. It is estimated this kind of fraud now accounts for roughly 15% of the losses suffered in the commercial sector in the UK. Once these fraudsters have enough financial and personal details of a business they can wreak fiscal havoc on their corporate victims.

How is information stolen?

One way that your data can be stolen is from the insecure disposal of your business documents. Even things which seem very innocent to put in the rubbish bin can be used by fraudsters to collect information that can then be used to damage your company.

How can you avoid having your data stolen?

  • Be very cautious about whatever is posted online, particularly about the directors of the company
  • Create a policy within the business of secure destruction for all paperwork being disposed of
  • Have a definitive policy for the secure storage of all paperwork, both on and off site
  • Regularly schedule secure document shredding with a professional shredding service, with a certificate of destruction
  • Don't neglect the secure destruction of items such as hard drives and photocopiers once they are no longer being used by your business - even if the items are broken beyond repair

What should you shred?

In a word, everything. From unsolicited CVs, to employee records, unused brochures, letterhead, envelopes, old utility bills, etc. Anything you're disposing of should be disposed of securely.

It is risky to think that this kind of fraud can't happen to you. Whether you are a sole trader, an SME or head a large corporation, your business and employees are there for the taking if you are remiss in the protection of your documents and data. Taking these precautions in advance can save a lot of distress further down the line and keep your business running smoothly.

Do you have questions about your security?

We are happy to have a chat with you about your document and IT destruction processes and needs - of course, there's no obligation. We want to help your business stay safe, and comply with GDPR and Data Protection Act requirements. Please complete the form on this page or give us a call on 0161 888 3398 and let us know what your concerns are.

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