Protect your business against crime

Preventing identity theft, scams and fraud

Guide

Identity theft and fraud is an increasing risk for businesses, particularly those that carry out any part of their business online.

The target of a fraud may be an individual within the business or the business itself. Criminals use a wide range of methods and approaches to commit their crimes. The aim is usually to steal sufficient information to assume the identity of the person or business with the aim of obtaining goods, services or credit fraudulently.

One of the most common methods of stealing your corporate identity is through your IT system. Fraudsters may use 'malware' to access usernames, passwords or bank details - detect spam, malware and virus attacks.

Another method is the use of phishing websites which use keystroke logging software to record your keyboard strokes as a way of stealing financial details. Protect your business against phishing.

Protect your business from scams

There are many forms of scams designed specifically to target businesses. You should familiarise yourself and your staff with key signs of a scam. See PSNI business guidance on scams, cons, tricks and fraud.

You can protect your business from scams in several ways. For example you should:

  • Limit the number of employees authorised to approve purchases of goods and services, and ensure that all other employees know they cannot discuss ordering or payments.
  • Never agree to anything in a rush. Remember, it is possible to make a legally binding contract over the phone, and that the main problem with oral contracts is proving exactly what was said and agreed. Generally, it is one person's word against another's.
  • Do some research on the goods or service being offered.
  • Read the small print thoroughly before signing any paperwork, so that you know what you are committing to and how much it might cost.
  • Keep copies of all paperwork, proof of postage and all other correspondence.

Don't be pressured into paying for services you have not agreed to, that don't match what you ordered, or that were promised and haven't been provided. You should take advice on your legal rights if you are unsure.

If you are threatened with debt collectors or a credit 'black listing', remember that only a court can decide whether you are liable to pay, and disputes with another business will not necessarily affect your credit rating.

Download the PSNI's Little Book of Big Scams for further guidance on how to protect your business from scams (PDF, 3.03MB).

Telephone preference service

If you are a sole trader or a partnership you can register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) by calling the TPS Helpline on Tel 0845 070 0707. 

The TPS is a central opt-out register, whereby individuals can register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls. It is a legal requirement that businesses do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS.

Minimise the risk of identity theft and fraud

To prevent IT fraud your business should implement anti-virus software and firewalls. You should also introduce internet and email policies to reduce the risk of employees inadvertently disclosing sensitive information. See how to protect your business online.

Another scam involves fraudsters stealing your entire corporate identity. Fraudsters attempt to do this by changing the information your business has registered with Companies House. Find out how you can protect your company from corporate identity theft.

You can help prevent identity fraud through the secure destruction of sensitive business information. When you need to destroy information in paper or electronic formats, make sure that you use reputable suppliers that comply with European standards, particularly EN 15713.