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If you're a business that regularly uses casual staff in order fulfil commitments to customers and keep running costs down, then you may wish to consider revising your business strategy!

Why? Because you could be putting your organisation at serious risk from the growing menace of a phenomenon known as ‘insider fraud' - and could lead to your customers' personal information being illegally used by organised criminal gangs.

According to the latest figures from the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT), the UK has the highest number of temporary workers in Europe - with over 1.3 million ‘casuals' now accounting for five per cent of Britain's total labour force.

Yet I know from my own experiences - and the anecdotes of many associates committed to fraud prevention - that many organisations who use temporary workers and contractors in their quest to meet and exceed customer needs, largely ignore the risks associated with hiring casual staff.

When it comes to meeting specific seasonal demands, the organisations that tend to have a greater demand for a temporary work force also tend to be organisations where these workers are likely to have extremely close access to customers. Specifically I am thinking of sectors like retail, hospitality and financial services. 

Yet the implications of placing the wrong person in a temporary position could be disastrous and have very high financial, legal and reputational consequences. 

According to the latest figures from the UK's financial services sector, the number of incidents of staff fraud identified in 2009 increased dramatically compared to 2008.  The sector also saw a huge growth in the number of cases of employees selling personal data to criminals.

The reality is more staff are being bribed by criminals to steal sensitive customer information. Why? Because it is a relatively risk-free crime that delivers a very high return on investment!

This is backed up by the assertion from police in Scotland that 10% of temporary employees working in financial call centres in Glasgow now have a direct link to criminal gangs!

Surely that's a good reason for HR professionals and Operations Managers and Directors to ensure the bona fides of temporary personnel are what they say they are?

But it's not just organised crimes that pose a threat to an organisation.

Many businesses and public sector bodies with fluctuating seasonal and temporary demands, employ a significant number of migrant workers.

Bearing in mind just how complicated it now is to employ people on a temporary basis, one would think that HR teams, and other people within organisations, had a good handle on The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which makes it a criminal offence to employ someone who does not have permission to work in the UK. 

In 2009, the UK Border Agency imposed 2,210 civil penalties on employers of illegal workers. The fines levied totalled more than £22.1 million - double the amount of penalties imposed in 2008.

With forged identity documents often very hard to spot, the importance of electronic identity validation and appropriate background checks should not be underestimated when it comes to temporary employees and complying with immigration legislation.

The good news is it isn't that difficult a task to develop an employee screening policy that includes carrying out identity checks, adverse financial checks and criminal record checks specifically on temporary and contract staff.

Such a system wouldn't have a major budgetary impact, as it would take only a relatively small amount of money (and very little time) to create something that is robust - and has long-term benefits.

At a stroke, such a system would also force criminals to work that much harder to steal sensitive information. At the moment we're making it far too easy for them - and that isn't good news for anyone!




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