The world of identity theft is changing rapidly. Earlier this week Experian UK, a unit of one of the world’s largest credit-reporting agencies, hosted the 2011 Identity Theft & Fraud Forum at The Grove, a prestigious five-star resort located on the outskirts of London. The purpose of the Forum was to assemble a cross-cultural collection of thought leaders on identity theft prevention and to focus attention on Britain’s increasing financial battle with identity theft. Keynote presenters included highly regarded American identity theft expert John Sileo, Jairam Sridharan, Head of Retail Assets, Axis Bank of India and Jonathan Walsh, Head of Consulting and Analytics, Identity & Fraud at Experian.
During his afternoon presentation, Mr. Walsh revealed the results of a newly released study commissioned by Experian UK. The study found that cases of identity fraud have doubled in Britain over just the past six months and that the trend is likely to continue unless addressed.
“Britain is determined to identify the latest trends in identity theft and define leading-edge solutions to avert the costly eight ball we are behind here in the States,” says Sileo, who founded ThinkLikeASpy.com and has worked with organizations from the U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security to Pfizer, Blue Cross and the FDIC. “Experian UK helped all of us take a huge step in the right direction with the Forum.”
During his closing keynote presentation, Sileo, himself a two-time victim of severe identity theft, shared not only his eye opening personal story, but what he considers to be the latest trends in the booming world of identity fraud.
“Right now, the business of financial fraud is being overtaken by organized crime,” says Sileo. “They’re intent on rolling up a highly profitable business that used to be the turf of petty criminals, drug addicts and the terminally underemployed. Of course, those people are still at the center of the crimes, they just have a nasty new boss.” He adds, with obvious frustration, “And their bosses aren’t just criminals, they’re highly effective businesspeople.”
According to Sileo, social media over exposure, mobile device hacking and offshore data hijacking are three trends to take very seriously. “It’s all about scale,” he explains. “Why steal one identity at a time on Facebook when you can socially engineer a queen bee [using her Facebook profile, he adds later] into giving you the keys to the corporate database.”
When he refers to queen bees, he’s referring to corporate employees with vast access to data but little training on how to protect it. Prompted for examples, he listed financial controllers, bookkeepers, laid-off IT staff, secretaries, executive assistants and employees who haven’t been properly trained to recognize and repel fraud.
The outlook at the Forum wasn’t entirely negative. By the end of the conference, there was a general consensus that the disease of identity theft, still somewhat immature in this country, can be eradicated like previous plagues in Britain’s history with intensive educational initiatives and fraud detection analytics.
Experian is a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting and marketing services and a constituent of the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 index, with revenues in excess of US$4 billion.
John Sileo is a leading American keynote speaker and author on identity theft, fraud, social networking exposure, social engineering and trust; he is the founder of ThinkLikeASpy.com and blogs at Sileo.com.