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The public and private sectors alike need to refocus their efforts on fraud, writes Tony Machin, CEO of TrustID.
At the start of this year the cap on migration from some of the Eastern member states of the EU was lifted, opening the doors for an influx of new migrants into Britain. In reality, the numbers of migrants have been unexpectedly low to date, and on the face of it, there are a lot of positives that can be associated with these new arrivals, not least the net contribution of £25bn that migrants are making to public finances. While many migrants come to the UK to work and earn an honest wage, there is however concern by many that the removal of migration restrictions will also allow in more unsavoury elements, and with that, lead to an increase in fraud-related crime. Every year, fraud costs the public purse in the UK more than £20 billion a year (NFA, Annual Fraud Indicator 2013). Furthermore, benefit fraud in the UK has risen ten per cent in the past two years, to £3.5 billion, despite efforts from the government to clamp down on benefit abuse.
The problem requires balance – a balance that allows those that have a legitimate right to be here and who can add value to our society in, while keeping those who don’t out. How? The key issue with fraud detection is that the authorities concerned – particularly in local government and the NHS, as well as private employers – often have nothing but the Mark One eyeball and, at best, some basic training to assess identity documents.
Despite private and public sector organisations’ efforts to train their staff to detect fraudulent documents, many still pass unnoticed, and this is only likely to get worse. We know there are factories in most towns and cities producing fake passports and driving licences which are becoming increasingly more refined, which means the person handling the checking, bar a small number of anti-fraud specialists, will almost certainly be out of their depth.
In the private sector, even fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker have not led employers to rethink how they approach this hot potato.
Clearly, both public and private sector are in serious need of a ‘silver bullet’. That is why, in a recent report, the Home Office has for the first time advocated the use of document scanner technology to tackle fraud. Ttitled ‘Guidance On The Use Of Document Scanners,’[featured in the December 2013 print issue of Professional Security Magazine] the report highlights that electronic identity authentication is a ‘quick and easy’ solution that should play an integral part in the UK’s front-line fraud defence for both private and public sector organisations.
The technology is much harder to deceive than the Mark One eyeball when it comes to identifying fraudulent documents. Moreover, the data collected in the process can help authorities to further understand and develop insights on counterfeiting and help with the continued evolution of anti-fraud technologies and training methods. In some local authorities, NHS trusts and private sector businesses such as hotels, document scanners have been successfully implemented and helped to identify counterfeits that would have passed as real under any other circumstances. In the recruitment process, for example, these scanners can fundamentally change the way identity checking procedures work. Not only does this help create more reliable methods for combatting fraud, it also leads to significant savings as fraud-related losses are staved off.