How much do you trust your colleagues? Well, according to research conducted by Sheilas’ Wheels home insurance, 15.3 million office workers in the UK workers are risking identity theft by being careless with their personal information in the office and over-trusting their colleagues.
The Sheilas’ Wheels ‘Office Trust’ survey highlighted that four in five office workers (83 per cent) say that they completely trust the people they work with and one in five (22 per cent) believe that their colleagues know as much about them as their closest friends. But with the cost of identity theft in the UK now over £1.2 billion per year, it’s important for everyone to take steps to protect their personal information at all times – around strangers and people they know - to give no-one the oppportunity to steal their identity.
Here are some top tips to protect your personal information at work:
Alarmingly, two thirds of office workers (66 per cent) admitted to making private phone calls at their desks and openly disclosing personal information – whilst renewing insurance policies, booking flights, or paying utility bills for example. In fact, one in five (20 per cent) have regularly overheard colleagues giving answers to common security questions, such as mother’s maiden name, place of birth, and stating their debit/credit card security codes. If you need to make a call during office hours, find a meeting room or a quiet area. Speaking quietly, covering your mouth to muffle the sound or turning your back on colleagues won’t guarantee that you’re not overheard.
Over 60 per cent of office workers have computer screens that are clearly visible to colleagues sitting nearby. This poses an identity theft risk as over a third (36 per cent) of office workers rely on the internet at work to manage their personal finances, with a fifth (22 per cent) admitting to checking their current account, credit cards, savings and investments at least once a week. Ideally you shouldn’t use your work computer at all to access information about your personal finances, but if you have to, wait until the office is quiet – perhaps before or after hours – when no-one can see you tap in your passwords.
Having a clear desk is definitely the best policy when it comes to protecting identity. Surprisingly, almost two thirds (60 per cent) of office employees leave personal information lying around on desks – easily accessible to anyone passing by - and female office workers appear to be most trusting. Never leave receipts, utility bills, statements or personal post left unattended on your desk – not even for a matter of minutes. Lock it away or keep it on your person.
Over 56 per cent of women admitted to leaving their handbag at their desk whilst in meetings or during breaks and 68 per cent admitted to regularly leaving their purse on their desk. This is not avisable at all as opportunistic thieves can pick up a bag or purse easily as they pass by a desk. Either lock it away or carry it around with you throughout the working day.
Alarmingly, 3 per cent of office workers (459,389) have let a colleague use their bank or credit card for work purposes - including withdrawing cash from an ATM on their behalf. If there is a need to buy a item for work purposes and claim back the expenses then never delegate the task – the cardholder should always take responsibility.
One in seven (14 per cent) of office workers regularly use their office bin to throw away private documents, such as utility bills, which contain information that could be used as a proof of address. Never do this. Take everything home and shred it.
The working population of Great Britian is 29,448,000: 21, 918,000 – full time working population 7, 530, 000 - part time working population Total – 29,448,000 Source: The Office For National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Quarter 4 of 2007. Over half of Brits (52 per cent) work in an office = 15,312,960. Source: ICM Research.  Source: Cabinet Office, 2006 http://www.identitytheft.org.uk/cost-of-identity-fraud.asp