ID fraudsters swindle SMEs out of £1.3bn a year

It's not just celebrities that are suffering from the rise of identity theft.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

You may have noticed a recent drop in the number of sons of Ivory Coast businessmen contacting you after their fathers have met an untimely end. Don’t get too excited, though: it seems the spammers and identity thieves haven’t gone away - they’ve just traded up. According to a survey, identity thieves are now targeting small businesses more frequently, with 100,000 businesses losing an average of £13,500 each – that adds up to £1.3bn across the UK.

Apparently, a fifth of businesses are vulnerable to identity theft, either because they give their employees access to sensitive data, don’t encrypt their data, or let employees take sensitive documents home. No mention of the danger of giving your data to civil servants, though, whose unfortunate habit of leaving laptops and USB sticks containing sensitive data on trains poses a significant risk to everyone.

The report, by CPP, suggests that corporate identity theft is increasing as fraudsters spot a loophole in Companies House data processing, which allows them to change company directors’ details or the registered office address using false documents. You’d have thought it would be up to Companies House to prevent this, but apparently not: instead, the report recommends businesses register under the PROOF scheme offered by Companies House, which allows you to submit your documents securely online.

Of course, it helps if businesses actually know what corporate identity theft is – a third apparently have no real idea what it involves, which suggests they're not really worrying about it enough. And with some of those who have fallen victim to it likely to suffer a drop in their credit rating and the loss of customers, that’s a bit of a concern.
We know: without that tell-tale false moustache or striped overalls, corporate fraudsters can be difficult ones to spot – but if someone says they need you to send money to release millions of pounds from a foreign bank account, it’s probably best just to steer clear...

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