Research conducted by Fellowes shows that 79% of businesses make no effort to destroy the sensitive material that they throw away or are preparing to recycle. This risks not just their identities being stolen, but those of their colleagues, their company, and its clients.
- Shockingly, only 64% of businesses have put in place a clear policy on how to handle documents with sensitive information - which no doubt goes some way to explaining why nearly one-third (32%) of employees admit to always throwing sensitive documents directly into the bin!
- The 97% of employees are therefore justified in their beliefs that their company does not completely protects customers' identities; furthermore, 64% of employees believe that bins are a bigger risk to customer details than computer systems or document theft
- Overall, 71% of UK employees think their companies should do more to ensure confidential documents are handled responsibly - and the UK is not alone. 66% of German, 70% of Belgian, 61% of Dutch and 85% of Irish employees agree that more should be done.
- So we spoke to top professionals from different lines of work to find out how aware they are of corporate identity fraud and the dangerous consequences associated with it.
Carol is a project manager for a top City financial IT firm. Having worked in the City for more than 15 years, during which several prominent cases of fraud have arisen, from Nick Leeson to Enron, she is very aware of document and financial fraud. Her company's identity is another matter.
She says, "If someone else started trading under my company's name then we would lose business if the fraudulent company wins business under our name, or incur costs if they spend money in our name and run up debts."
Clearly in the finance industry the threat is two-fold: both from lost trade and incurred debts. Given the size of transactions involved, the corporation's ID needs to be protected securely.
Although Carol seems to have a good grasp on document and financial fraud, she has very little knowledge of how to protect her company's identity and may be at risk for corporate ID fraud.
Philip is MD of De Leon, an online personal reputation management company. Given that his organisation exists to promote individuals, the issue of both personal and corporate ID fraud are a prime concern.
Philip says, "We all guard our headed stationery to prevent fraud. We know this is an important document and there is a high level of awareness throughout the company that we need to protect it. Anything that we don't need to archive, we shred."
So far, so good. Headed stationery is indeed a 'hot doc', as we discussed in last week's post. It's possibly the single most important document for a company to protect, presenting as it does a credible corporate face to the ID fraud victim.
However, he continues, "But our logos are now all over the Internet so it's very easy to represent yourself as something or someone you are not. Quite what I can do to stop somebody creating a website/brochure/etc similar to mine with different contact details - I am not sure I know."
So while the web gives us untold opportunity to build brands, the converse is also true: in so doing, we lose control over our brand identities and possibly corporate identities too. And no amount of online monitoring can cover the web in its entirety. In such cases, you could only discover the identity theft when it's too late. Perhaps this explains why 71% of UK employees feel that their companies should do more to ensure that confidential documents are handled responsibly. Does your company have policies and guidelines to safeguard its employees from id theft?
Brendan is a freelance copywriter who has worked in communications, publications and PR for over fifteen years.
He says: "When I worked for agencies I was very aware that I was representing the company to clients, whether meeting them in person, talking to them on the phone, or even when sending emails.
"However, I'm shocked to think that I could have been putting their identity at risk. Honestly, I've lost more post-its than I care to remember. And I've certainly left some of the so-called 'hot docs' lying around in the past. Note to self: must try harder. And that's not a post-it note either!"
Three people, three different industries: finance, online, and communications. It would seem that the financial expert is the most aware of the potential for fraud, which makes sense given the massive amounts of money at stake.
But across the board it would seem there is little awareness. No one has referenced a corporate ID protection policy; a clear-desk policy; even a shredding policy. Without this, they could be at risk.
So perhaps the Fellowes study rings true. Hopefully sites like Stop ID Fraud and this blog will go some way to changing this.
We're curious, what do you think? Do you feel that governments, businesses and society should do more to cultivate a culture that is aware of ID fraud prevention? Are you surprised by these stats? Do you see yourself in these quotes? Or are you a corporate ID specialist with advice for all? Let us know.