A gang has been identified and two men jailed after being found guilty of committing identity fraud. The victim, Minh To of Stockport, Greater Manchester was targeted by criminals who transferred the deeds of his £500,000 five-bedroom home and attempted to auction his property.
The fraudsters targeted Mr To’s mail and stole utility bills. They then forged his signature and transferred the deeds of his home falsifying the documentation required to auction his property. Mr To was alerted to the deception by his daughter who saw his home on Rightmove for sale just three days before the auction was due to commence.
This case further highlights the risks of fraudsters intercepting mail and using it to commit identity fraud; one of the fastest growing crimes which is estimated to cost the UK approximately £5.4 billion per year.*
Criminals often target mail as it can contain lots of personal information. The most obvious of these being financial details such as bank statements and credit and debit cards. Unfortunately, consumers are often less aware of the risk of other mail, much of which still contains a wealth of information that fraudsters can put to good use.
How to avoid being the victim of identify fraud
The safest way to avoid being targeted is to ensure that all mail is safe. If a consumer moves home, they should change their address with all organisations that send them mail as soon as possible to ensure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, we know that this doesn’t happen in practice and many people simply forget to tell everyone. In fact, research shows that when asked to rank the organisations that people would tell when they were moving house respondents categorised just five types as ‘essential to inform’.
Typically, the top tier was advised of a new address within three weeks of a move. Important organisations were told within two months and non-essential organisations (including many heavy direct markers such as retail, charity, and entertainment) were not told at all.
We always advise our clients sending mail to screen their data against goneaway and deceased suppressions to help to minimise the impact of mail not reaching the intended recipient. It’s not enough to rely on consumers updating their personal details. With ‘potential opportunities for fraud’ to add to the long list of reasons to screen data, it’s easy to see why it’s a no brainer for any responsible marketer.
* Source – Annual Fraud Indicator 2016, PKF & Experian.
If you knock at the front door of one of your customers you will know when they answer whether they are the person you are trying to reach, but how do you ascertain whether your direct mail communications are reaching the right person when you can’t visit each and every home you are contacting?
Thousands of people move home (in some cases leaving the country altogether) every year and this figure is increasing, but the lowest priority these people have is updating their contact details with every company they have ever done business with; updating address details with banks, credit card companies, utility suppliers, mobile phone providers, loyalty cards, pension providers, solicitors etc. can be a mammoth task alongside the general hassle of moving house. Perceived as an unimportant activity for a mover, it is unsurprising that customers fail to inform companies about a change of address.
The incoming tenant often has to deal with months of unwanted post addressed to people that have long since moved away, and many people throw this away instead of returning it to the original sender. Although a lot of direct mail is returned each year as a result of house moves and people wishing to unsubscribe from future mailings, there is a huge amount of direct mail that disappears into landfill, never reaching the intended recipient nor making its way back to the sender for removal. Further to this, many companies never action these returns, or take so long doing so that sending continues, despite having the information that some people have moved or do not wish to receive any further communications. This inaction on the part of the originating company can lead to negative perceptions of the business and its practices.
Research by The Software Bureau indicates that each piece of returned mail costs the originating company £4, yet many companies continue to print and send mail to these obsolete addresses, quickly amassing a huge bill that could be avoided through undertaking regular database cleansing. Estimates put a figure of 40% of returned mail being due to unsubscription requests, and 60% being due to goneaways. Printing and sending communications to addresses that are no longer related to a genuine customer is a waste of money and resources; funds and time that could be more efficiently assigned to attaining a cleaner and more reliable database.
One reason businesses do not remove goneaways from their databases is to avoid incurring the associated costs, but this is a short-sighted view as the costs of continuing to mail people who are not there will far outweigh that of keeping the database clean. Using a cleansing file like Re-mover means your database will be up to date to within one month of all house moves at any given time – that is much quicker than relying on new tenants to return the odd bit of unwanted post. If a direct mail campaign involves sending several iterations or reminders about a service, there is every chance that time and money has been invested in contacting a customer who has moved. If the new tenant then eventually returns all the unwanted mail you could be looking at a cost of £40 per record over a period of a few months – this adds up fast and cuts into the available marketing budget as well as skewing ROI figures.
Companies that regularly use Re-mover and other suppression files will see a much better return on investment from their campaigns, a lower overall campaign cost (due to reduced print and postage costs) and a much better reputation for not sending unwanted or irrelevant postal communications.