Fraudsters steal identity of Barclays’ chairman

In what must surely be one of the most embarrassing cases of identity theft to date, the chairman of UK high-street banking titan Barclays has had £10,000 stolen from his Barclays personal bank account, reports the Times.

Marcus Agius, who became Barclays chairman last January, lost the money after a con man exploited weaknesses in the bank’s call centre processes and convinced the operator to issue a new card in Agius’s name. The con man was then able to walk into a branch of Barclays and withdraw £10,000 of the chairman’s savings, the Times reveals.  

Barclays says the fraud was possible due to ‘human error’. The bank has reportedly initiated a review of security procedures in the wake of the incident.

Agius, who takes home £800,000 a year plus bonuses, has been fully reimbursed under the bank’s 100% fraud guarantee, says Barclays.

The incident underlines the security problem posed by disparate outsourced business processes, an issue highlighted in mid-December 2007 when it was revealed Norwich Union had been slapped with a record £1.26 million fine by the Financial Services Authority for similar failures in the company’s Indian call centres.

The watchdog found that inadequate systems and controls at the insurer’s call centres allowed fraudsters to obtain sensitive customer details, including confidential records such as addresses and bank details.

The fraudsters then used the information to successfully impersonate 74 customers and cash in their policies, worth £3.3 million in total.

Unlike financial fraud, in which money is simply siphoned out of people’s accounts using electronic means or a stolen or cloned credit or debit card, identity theft involves the impersonation of an individual and the exploitation of their financial identity.
The strategy is often more damaging for the victim in question than fraud or financial theft, because it compromises the individual’s ability to function financially in the long term.

It can prove more profitable for the fraudster, however, because extremely large sums of money – for example in the form of loans – can be procured in another person’s identity. Repayments can then be defaulted upon with impunity. The victim, however, is left to pick up the tab.
Identity theft is rapidly becoming one of the most challenging problems for organisations that issue accounts of any nature, as well as credit and loan issuers.
CIFAS, the Fraud Prevention Service, reports that over 40,000 identity scams were committed in 2007.

Further reading 

Norwich Union fined for ID theft

SOCA to suffer staff cuts 

Lord Erroll: HMRC breach a "godsend"

McAfee: Cyber-espionage resource drain

MI5: E-espionage resource drain

Inside job

UK child database delayed

HMRC breach sparks finance fears

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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