How we are tackling identity theft

In the last months, two of our prosecutions cases have highlighted how we have tackled the fraudulent behaviour of some licence holders and the challenges we face.

This month, our Director of Partnerships and Interventions, Dave Humphries, discusses our counter fraud initiatives and the steps we took in these cases.

Our blog aims to discuss developments in the private security industry and to provide further insight and opinion about our work. We look forward to having an on-going discussion with you; please share your comments and opinions.

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Most licensing systems are based on a set of standards and for us at the SIA our system is designed to ensure only appropriate people are given the licence to operate. This involves a number of checks to prove identity that people have the relevant qualifications, checks on criminality and verifying that a person has the right to work in the United Kingdom. Most applicants provide the information we need to make a considered decision.

But what happens when someone knows they will not qualify for a licence, but is determined to get one?  They may test the robustness of our checks and they may submit false documents to do so. We are constantly alert and we do all we can do to address specific threats.

One particular type of fraud that we face is identity theft.  It is not the only category of fraud we have come across, but it was a feature in two recent cases.

These two recent investigations have involved fraudsters stealing the identities of others, but being prosecuted by the SIA for their actions. In both cases, the fraud involved not only an attempt to bypass our online licensing system, but the two individuals also tried to get around the requirement of proving their identity by taking on the full identity of another, to get an SIA licence.

The first fraudster was Moses Oshunkoya who knew the person whose identity he targeted.  He used their personal information to the point that he was able to gain a passport under this new identity.  Using this false identity Oshunkoya got as far as fraudulently gaining an SIA licence.  Nonetheless, our investigation of him resulted in a criminal prosecution.

The second case was Kazeem Oladimeji who was more contrived in his approach. He sought out a former SIA licence holder no longer working within the industry.  He adopted that identity by purchasing a fraudulent passport in the victim’s name. He changed the licence holder’s address, enabling Oladimeji to replace an SIA licence.  Again, the outcome was a successful criminal prosecution.

Both examples show the real threat posed by identity theft.  In both cases, the victims who had their identity stolen contacted us. Once we were aware, we investigated and prosecuted the offenders to ensure their fraudulent activity was brought to an end.

What are we doing to combat such activity?

Thankfully, processing changes in recent years have and will make future cases like this less likely.  For example, we introduced personal online accounts which are password protected. This reduces the ability for fraudsters to engage with us without having access to the online accounts.

We have also made improvements to the way we verify documents. We have improved technology to better identify fraudulent identity documents.  When we do find instances of fraud, we take robust action with our enforcement partners to ensure such documents are taken out of circulation.  Finally, as these two cases highlight, we prosecute the fraudsters.

As the regulator of the private security industry, we play an important role in dealing with identify fraud and together with our partners, we take robust action to tackle such criminality.

Those working in the private security industry can support this by being our eyes and ears and reporting any fraud that they come across.  As with other types of criminality within the security industry; if you suspect fraud please report online or contact Crimestoppers.  Specific information and how the fraud was identified will enable us to take positive action.

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Play a proactive part in regulation through our Licence Management service

Approved contractors currently using our Licence Assist service for more than six months now have the chance to move on to our Licence Management service.

This month Tony Holyland our Head of Quality & Standards talks about the ins and outs of our refreshed Licence Management service.

Our blog aims to discuss developments in the private security industry and to provide further insight and opinion on our work. We look forward to having an on-going discussion with you; please share your comments and opinions.

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I am pleased to share that our Licence Management service is now available to approved contractors who have been using the Licence Assist service for six months. Licence Management allows a business to manage the licence application process for its staff – just as people have been asking for.

In 2013, I joined the team that manages our Approved Contractor Scheme. Since then I’ve met a large number of people running businesses that are part of the scheme.

Many of you have told me that you would like to help your staff when they are applying for a licence, by being more involved in the licence application process. After all, it seems inefficient for a business to carry out the same checks that we do.

This new service gives security businesses the chance to be proactive and share responsibility in the licensing process. In essence, Licence Management allows us to work closely with approved contractors and make the process of getting a licence easier.

We have listened to the valuable feedback from our pilot exercise with nine approved contractors to inform and improve our service. For us, Licence Management has a strategic value that fits with how we drive business improvement via the ACS and how we seek to engage businesses using our licensing system.

We hope that the service will give us closer relationships with businesses and that this will help raise industry involvement in regulation.

 What are the benefits of the Licence Management service?

If you don’t already know about our Licence Management service, it gives an approved contractor greater control over the licensing of its staff.

Similar to the Licence Assist service, Licence Management provides an approved contractor with the tools to enable them to manage employees’ licence applications online. To do this you will have had to have met certain criteria that are beyond the scope of the usual ACS requirements.

A significant benefit is that it enables an approved contractor to check and verify the identity documents of an applicant. This removes the need for a licence applicant to visit a post office and reduces the duplication of checks.

Other benefits include:

  • Online access to submit and manage licence applications for your workforce.
  • The ability for your business to update information e.g. Individual’s details directly onto the system.
  • The ability to assist licence applicants through the licensing process making your business more attractive to applicants.
  • Saving time, cost and reducing the risk of document loss as the need to send valuable documents to us is removed in most cases.
  • Receiving real-time alerts of revoked or suspended licences, when a licence is due for renewal and other relevant updates.
  • The ability to pay for a single – and multiple applications – online and by direct debit.

It is important to mention that all approved contractors using the Licence Management service are required to have Cyber Essentials Plus certification (or equivalent standard). This is a government scheme designed to verify implementation of a set of basic technical controls to help organisations protect themselves against common, online security threats and is in line with data protection legislation.

We have also developed a comprehensive library of resources available on our website here. This will provide additional information and guidance which includes:

  • The approved contractor scheme application form
  • Licence Management service customer journey
  • Code of Connection
  • Code of Connection guidance
  • Licence Management Partnership Agreement
  • Licence Management Operating Manual

The entire process from application to decision should take between three and six months.

I think that Licence Management is a significant step forward for both the industry and the SIA.

This initiative will strengthen our overall approach to driving up the quality and operational efficiency of businesses.

If you would like to know more, please send us a message through your SIA online business account using the phrase: “Tell me about Licence Management” and include a contact number.

SIA Open Day in Manchester

This month Peter Selwyn Smith our stakeholder manager talks about our recent Manchester open day on 4 July.

Our blog aims to discuss developments in the private security industry and to provide further insight and opinion on our work. We look forward to having an on-going discussion with you; please share your comments and opinions.

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The opportunity to meet with people in the industry and learn more about their experiences and priorities, is something we value enormously.

The Manchester open day, at the Crowne Plaza, on 4 July was designed to create a space for people to meet and have a conversation with us and where possible for us to resolve any issues and concerns. The format of the day was similar to the London event we held last year with the London Night Czar Amy Lame.

At the Manchester event, our licensing experts were on-hand to provide one-to-one help and support to people renewing or applying for a licence. We also had experts from across the rest of the organisation; from our Training, Quality and Standards team, Partnerships & Interventions North team and our Stakeholder Engagement team.

The day started with a session run by our Director of Partnerships & Interventions, Dave Humphries. He first gave an overview of our key priorities for the next twelve months which included:

  • How our licensing system is working well
  • The completion of the review of the Approved Contractor Scheme
  • An upcoming review of the licence-linked qualifications
  • Enforcement activity we undertake to prevent continued lawbreaking.

After a few hours, the event came to life. Some of those attending took the chance to talk with our SIA staff including our Chair, Liz France.

Our partnerships and interventions team, based in the North, also spoke to businesses about initiatives in the region. They discussed how they are dealing with those businesses who don’t comply with regulation. The importance of telling us about any non-compliant businesses in the region, also came up in conversations with delegates.

Our customer support and decisions teams held one-to-one sessions with individuals and businesses, and anyone who needed help with their applications was able to speak to a specialist immediately.

It was clear that people had given up their time and, in some cases, travelled a long distance to talk to us about their needs. For our staff, who were able to help most of the people who came, it was satisfying to see people go home happy.

We met an applicant who did not understand why his application was being held up. Our decisions manager explained the situation was due to a more complex than usual set of circumstances. Before he left, he said he felt reassured that we had not forgotten about his application, understood the situation and was now confident it would be dealt with soon.

Another applicant whom we met had mistyped their name when applying. This meant our system couldn’t find and match his online account to his existing licence, holding up his application. Our customer support experts were able to deal with this quickly as he had ID to show that his licence was linked to him. As a result, his application was able to progress there and then.

We also met with an existing licence holder about our decision to suspend his licence. He brought his employer and a friend along and we spoke with them all to explain the reasons for our decision.

On the day, the training, quality and standards team spoke to a number of businesses. They came to the event to find out more about the Approved Contractor Scheme, whether it would be right for their company and what the application process involves.

All in all, it was a valuable, lively day. The feedback we received from the event was very positive. Some of the comments include:

‘Very pleased with the service and the staff were very friendly’

‘I commend the SIA for taking the initiative to do these workshops well done’

‘Useful information gleaned from each session’

It was good to see the clear difference the day made to the individuals and businesses who came along. On the day, 13 licences were granted and several more licence applications progressed to the next stage.

We would like to thank all those who came along as we know how precious your time is. We have already begun planning the next open day and will be canvassing views on what people would find most useful. We hope to be in Birmingham in the autumn. Do look out for more details on our website, in our newsletters and on our social media channels.z

The Review of the SIA Published by the Home Office – What is to Come

This month our chief executive talks about the Home Office’s review of the SIA. He discusses the important role the private security industry plays in public safety.

This blog exists to discuss developments in the private security industry and to provide further insight and opinion on our work. Please share your comments and opinions and engage in an on-going discussion with us.

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On the 7th June the Home Office published the tailored review (formerly known as a triennial review) for the SIA. You can find it here.

For a number of reasons the review has been a long time coming. But now it is here, we welcome its publication and the important contribution the private security industry has made to its recommendations.

The private security industry is a thriving sector covering a range of services, many of which have a direct bearing on public safety. We are all used to seeing private security operatives in our everyday lives in shopping centres, pubs, leisure facilities, industrial settings and at events.

The review recognises the vital role the private security industry plays in public protection and national security. It also affirms that there is a clear need for regulation in the industry. The review acknowledges the role of the SIA in raising standards and our contribution to safeguarding, public protection and national security.

Many of the recommendations of this review reflect the SIA’s published priorities, some of which we are already delivering successfully. For example, we continue to focus on further reducing violence and criminality. As part our drive to improve standards and strengthen the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) we have recently completed a comprehensive review of the ACS. The outcomes of this review will be implemented in the spring of 2019.

Going forward we will be reviewing the qualifications and training of those working in the industry to further improve knowledge and skills to facilitate even more effective protection of the public.

The heightened security threats from terrorism in recent years have served to bring a sharper focus on the role that private security can play and whether its capabilities are being used by the state to the fullest potential.

We have been facilitating greater collaboration between the counter terrorism (CT) law enforcement community and the large numbers of security operatives in areas such as door supervision, guarding and CCTV. We are also exploring with the CT community how the private security industry can be better equipped with knowledge and skills to reduce the threat to the public from a terrorist attack.

A key part of our plan remains the delivery of excellent services at the lowest possible cost. We strive to keep fees for those we regulate as low as possible and have reduced our costs by 27% since 2010. Further efficiencies have enabled us to keep the licence fee at £220 over the last six years, despite costs rising with inflation. We have recently moved to a joint Government Hub and will continue to seek efficiencies. We are currently working with the Home Office to review fee levels.

We are aligned with the review in continuing to take an even more risk-based approach to regulation with a sharper focus on non-compliant individuals and businesses, placing less of a regulatory burden where standards have been met or exceeded.

We will work with the Home Office and Devolved Administrations to implement all parts of this review that the Government wishes to take forward. We also stand ready to take on any additional areas of regulation, should the Government ask us to do so.

Ultimately our work is dependent on partnership not just with the police and other public bodies, but with the industry itself. We seek, and continue to benefit from, the support and cooperation of those working in the private security industry and our many partners to provide effective regulation. We are grateful for that support and cooperation.

As we look to the future we look forward to continuing to work with the private security industry and our partners to deliver high quality regulation and public protection.

An opportunity to take stock of your data

This month we are relaunching our corporate blog. We have launched our corporate blog to discuss developments in the private security industry and to provide further insight and opinion on our work.

To kick-start our blog again, our Chair, Elizabeth France, is talking about the upcoming changes to data protection law and opportunity this gives the private security industry.

We hope you will engage in an on-going discussion with us; provide comments and share your opinions.

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Tomorrow (Friday 25 May), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force; it is the first time in 20 years that this legislation has been updated. The principles will be familiar to those of you who were complying with the 1998 Act but it recognises the increased damage which can be done, with the changes in technology, when personal information is not processed as it should be.

You all have your personal data processed by others. If we are processing information about you then I want you to have confidence that we are doing so in accordance with the law. We have been working hard to make the changes necessary to ensure you know what we do with your information. We are ready to deal with any requests for that information (the time scales for meeting individual subject access requests are tighter under the new law), we have provided training for all our staff and we have appointed a Data Protection Officer, whose details are on our website.

If you process information about individuals, perhaps as a security industry employer, what have you done? If you are a small business the changes you have to make may not be huge If you were complying fully with the 1998 Act. What should you do? My suggestion would be that you go to the Information Commissioner’s website www.ico.org.uk) and start by looking at the helpful guidance: Preparing for the GDPR: 12 steps to take now.

Have you got a lawful basis for processing the personal data you hold? Who in your organisation is responsible for your compliance? Did you know that fines for breaches can now be up to 20,000,000 Euros or 4% of turnover?

Data protection rules can sometimes be used as an excuse for not thinking about how we manage information; it is easier to say we cannot share for example, than to consider how we might do so lawfully. This is an opportunity for us all to take stock. To think about what we hold and why we need to keep it, to make sure we have told those whose information we collect just what we are doing with it.

If you have queries or concerns about the way we are processing personal data, please let us know and our privacy notice is available here for your use. As a Regulator we are well aware that there are many of you who have to give us the information we ask for; you have no choice. That places a particular obligation on us to earn your confidence, and to show not just compliance with the letter of the law but a respect for the information you entrust to us.

The SIA and Counter-Terrorism

In this month’s blog our Deputy Director of Partnerships and Interventions, Ed Bateman, talks about the work the SIA is doing to contribute to the counter-terrorism initiatives underway by the Home Office and Metropolitan Police.

We hope you will engage in an on-going discussion with us; provide comments and share your opinions.

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More than just a regulator

A long time ago we stopped being a regulator that simply issued licences, raised industry standards, and maintained the Approved Contractor Scheme.  While we continue to focus on these activities, we have become increasingly involved in supporting police in their efforts to identify and disrupt serious and organised crime and we’re engaging regularly with businesses, and licensed operatives, to deliver the wider safeguarding agenda. This includes initiatives associated with violence reduction, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, and protecting vulnerable people.

Our approach to counter terrorism

Counter Terrorism is at the hard end of ‘safeguarding’. Although the whole spectrum of safeguarding activity is important, Counter Terrorism has regional, national, and international interest.

Our approach to Counter Terrorism (CT) has a number of components.  Some of the broad themes of activity are communication, intelligence sharing, and training and qualifications. Effective joint working between police and the private security industry is crucial as is strengthening the relationship between the SIA and CT Policing.

We’ve been engaged with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for several years developing a range of training and information products during that time, all of which are targeted at making the public safer. The qualifications that form part of the SIA licence criteria include a CT awareness module.

Delivering training and industry awareness

We’ve been instrumental in encouraging individuals and businesses to attend Project Griffin and Argus training. These programmes are aimed at individuals and locations respectively. This training has undoubtedly increased safety at events and venues, as well as improving the knowledge and confidence of licence holders throughout the UK.
In addition to this, our regional teams are now working with local Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSAs) to deliver bespoke CT awareness briefings across the UK.  Night clubs (or other licensed premises) usually provide the meeting space and refreshments; CTSAs provide the briefing, and the SIA provide the audience using their local business contacts. We regularly welcome between 50 and 200 attendees to the events and the feedback is excellent. Another CT initiative, also produced in partnership with local CTSAs, brings together small groups of businesses to learn how to identify fraudulent identity documents.

Keeping the industry informed

The provision of real-time essential briefing material following the terrorist attacks on London and Manchester was well received by the private security industry.  We routinely receive and pass on critical messages from UK CT Policing. We do this either specifically to the 14,000 subscribers to our SIA Update and ACS Update newsletters, or more generally via our website and to our 27,000 social media followers. There are some excellent publications available at the NaCTSO website  (such as the new Crowded Places Guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-crowded-places-guidance-launched) and we use our own digital channels to publicise them industry-wide.

Encouraging co-operation

We work closely with the security industry and police encouraging both to identify opportunities for joint or collaborative working to make towns and cities safer from the threat of terrorism. The private security industry in Scotland recently inaugurated the Security Industry Safer Scotland (CT) Group, which is supported by the SIA and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC).  The group, which is chaired and supported by senior leaders from across Scotland’s security industry, will feed into the Scottish Government’s ‘Crowded Places Forum’. This ensures that the experience of the licensed (and wider) security industry contributes to the broader CT discussion.

Developing a close working relationship with NaCTSO is at the heart of our own approach to CT. Together with NaCTSO, and through CT policing, we can ensure that our agencies work effectively together to provide the best opportunity to make people safer through combating  the threat of terrorism.

It’s good to talk, and, as a Regulator perhaps even more important to listen

In this month’s blog our Chair, Elizabeth France, talks about the Strategic Forum and the Stakeholder Conference and the importance of us as a regulator engaging with and listening to the private security industry.

We hope you will engage in an on-going discussion with us; provide comments and share your opinions.

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This month has been a good opportunity for me to hear directly from industry representatives, those we regulate, representatives of our partner organisations, and of government.

When I arrived at the SIA just over three years ago, there was a sense that change to our legal framework was just around the corner. The organisation had survived the test applied to ‘quangos’ and there had been a manifesto commitment to make the statutory amendments that would allow business licensing. Because change seemed to be imminent, a group had been set up which represented industry and the Home Office, under the chairmanship of the SIA to prepare for that change.

But the corner turned out to be a slow bend and the momentum of the group had inevitably slowed. We decided to draw a line, to pause and think about how to involve industry in our strategic thinking, whether within or beyond the current legal framework.

SIA Strategic Forum

On 2 March we held the first meeting of our new Strategic Forum. Before setting up the Strategic Forum, I was clear that I expected to see commitment from those who attended, while keeping some fluidity to the structure of the Forum. Attendance was 100% and everyone engaged in constructive discussion. By the end of the meeting we had identified areas where there is real opportunity to work together to achieve change.

This Strategic Forum is not an inner circle, or a club; it is just one of many ways we want to have conversations with the private security industry. Alongside this, I have a series of conversations arranged with individuals not currently on the group over the next few weeks.

SIA Stakeholder Conference

I have been reflecting on the fact that it’s good to talk.  As a Regulator, perhaps it’s even more important to listen. Another opportunity we had to do this was on 14 March when we had our annual stakeholder conference. All I want to say here is that I thought it was our best (at least in my time).

Just as with the Strategic Forum, it was the quality of engagement that was so impressive. Not just the excellent presentations, the focused questions or the interactivity in the workshops, but also the opportunity taken for informal exchanges. I enjoyed the day, and others seemed to too.

Working in partnerships is what regulation is all about, so finishing the month as a guest speaker at a Security Awareness Special Interest Group (SASIG) seminar on equality and diversity in the security industry is brilliant. It’s an opportunity to talk, and to listen, to share experiences from within this industry – but also to hear from those whose experience elsewhere can help us to see how hurdles have been jumped already, and what benefits they have seen.

I am looking forward to continuing my many and varied conversations, not just with licence holders, but with suppliers, buyers of security and those who rely on a professional and appropriately trained private security industry. There is more that we can all do to promote partnership working to protect the public. As the tragic events of 22 March remind us, there is a clear and pressing need for us all to rise to the challenge.