Firm with Its Finger on Preventing Fraud; Companies, Particularly in the Financial Services Sector, Are Increasingly Having to Use High-Tech Security Devices in a Bid to Beat Fraudsters. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports on a Northern Ireland-Based Company Whose Innovative Software Is Helping to Crack Crime

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), January 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

Firm with Its Finger on Preventing Fraud; Companies, Particularly in the Financial Services Sector, Are Increasingly Having to Use High-Tech Security Devices in a Bid to Beat Fraudsters. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports on a Northern Ireland-Based Company Whose Innovative Software Is Helping to Crack Crime


Byline: ADRIENNE McGILL

AN investigative programme shown on BBC television last week provided uncomfortable but illuminating viewing.

Reporter Paul Kenyon "stole" the identity of David Blunkett and used a copy of the Home Secretary's birth certificate to obtain a provisional driving licence.

Kenyon also managed to get a licence and bank account in the name of Frederick Forsyth, the famous novelist whose book, The Day of the Jackal, was made into a film in 1973, which featured an assassin who assumed the identity of a dead child.

The use of the birth certificate, legally obtained, to get a licence in Blunkett's name and the success in obtaining several credit cards in Forsyth's name (one with a credit limit of pounds 7,500) highlighted the growing threat posed by identity fraud. The Government is now planning new laws to curb the practice.

The hijacking by conmen of victims' details, usually to obtain fake documents or steal money, has tripled in the past two years, according to new figures.

Banks, building societies and financial institutions reported more than 40,000 cases of identity fraud in 2002 compared with fewer than 13,000 cases in 2000.

It is a growing menace. According to the Association for Payment Clearing Services, the costs of identity theft in 2002 are expected to be well up on the pounds 12 million reported in 2001.

In fact, it's estimated that the overall cost of identity fraud, including credit card fraud, fraudulent applications for loans and credit from high street stores and catalogue companies, is a staggering pounds 96 million a year.

Conmen often create new identities by trawling through bins, collecting bills and bank statements that can be used to build up the false identity.

A birth certificate can be obtained with no requirement to prove identity. The name on the certificate can be entered on the electoral roll with no checks. Utility bills and a driving licence can then be obtained.

Fraud on-line has become just as prevalent as fraud using paper documents. It is estimated that on-line retailers may have lost almost pounds 100 million in business over Christmas and New Year as gangs of fraudsters cashed in on the internet sales boom.

With more than 10 million people shopping by computer, this has been accompanied by a corresponding rise in crime.

A typical scam works like this - criminals can set up a bogus but professional- looking website offering desirable goods at well below high street prices. Buyers input their details - including billing address and security numbers - but when they try to purchase something, the site will tell them their card cannot be processed.

People running the site will have collected the information they need. They sit on it for six to eight weeks, then use it fraudulently.

Last month, it emerged that fraudsters had tried to steal credit card information from the American on-line auction house eBay.com by setting up a fake website that mimicked the firm.

The scam revolved around e-mails aimed at previous eBay users. The recipients were told there had been a problem with billing and were asked to re-enter their card details at a site called ebayupdates.com. The site had been taken off-line within hours of being discovered, but hundreds of users may have submitted their details.

Dozens of chatrooms and specialist sites exist where hackers swap personal details of card holders. The numbers are exchanged for cash or in return for passwords allowing free access to websites that normally require payment.

But leading the way in the battle to prevent on-line fraud is a Northern Ireland company which is using state-of-the-art technology to beat criminals.

Gazer Technology Research Ltd, a University of Ulster spin-out company based at the UU's Science Research Park in Coleraine, has developed innovative security software using biometrics which enables companies to verify a person's identity. …

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Firm with Its Finger on Preventing Fraud; Companies, Particularly in the Financial Services Sector, Are Increasingly Having to Use High-Tech Security Devices in a Bid to Beat Fraudsters. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports on a Northern Ireland-Based Company Whose Innovative Software Is Helping to Crack Crime
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