My colleague recently attended a workshop about fraud in litigation at the Civil Court Users Association (CCUA), where lawyers discussed concerns over courts' handling of identity fraud. After being debriefed about this session, it became clear to me that this is a big issue for the debt enforcement industry, and it’s time for us to consider solutions.
Cause for concern
One example that struck a chord with me came from a legal firm that had experienced identity fraud first hand. After a defendant was issued with a judgment against them for debts owed, they called the court directly, impersonated a lawyer, and told the court that the debts had been paid and that the judgment didn’t need to proceed. The incident highlighted how even basic security questions weren’t asked by the court.
Unfortunately, after more research I found that this isn't an isolated incident. Data from fraud prevention body Cifas shows that identity fraud was up by 49% in 2015, and that these cases now make up 53% of all instances of fraud in the UK.
Acknowledging the issue
The good news is that Cifas helped its members prevent £1.1 billion of fraud losses in 2015, and it did this through initiatives which many of our industries would also benefit from. In particular, UK courts could learn from Cifas' push to recognise, record and share incidents of identity fraud.
We all need to work together to raise awareness, and by making sure these incidents are logged, stored and shared – both internally within the court system and externally with relevant industry partners – this will help increase vigilance.
It will also provide vital information that will help industry leaders identify at-risk cases and develop proper identity checks, whether communicating by post, phone or email. For example, biometric tests make voice recognition a practical prospect for secure phone systems. I’ve seen that Barclays is already rolling this out for banking services, so there’s reason to believe it could make it into other financial services and the courts.
These issues will need even more attention as the courts look at moving more processes online. Bringing identity fraud out into the open is essential if these processes are to incorporate new, influential technologies that have the potential to significantly reduce fraud. After all, webcams, smart phones and touch screens bring with them technologies like fingerprint scans and facial recognition.
But more important than any technology is the opportunity for greater openness about identity fraud. If courts and companies create networks to flag and share instances of fraud, it becomes much easier to identify criminals and their tactics, and to protect against them in the future. With a proactive approach to this issue, rather than responding as incidents and mistakes arise, we can bring about real change in our industry.