Call centre staff fraud ‘must be tackled’ as UK-wide losses reach £40m

By Raspberry Jim,

Call centre managers are being urged to be vigilant against employee fraud “before it is too late” as UK-wide business losses soar to £40 million.

Consultant Philip Williams from Blackfords LLP, which specialises in defending some of the country’s most complex fraud cases, said the issue is among one of the most pressing facing managers in over 6,200 call centres across the UK.

This warning comes as figures from ActionFraud show that businesses in industries across the UK reported £40 million in losses from this type of crime between 2016 and 2017. During this period over 800 reports were submitted to the police, figures show.

Employee fraud is defined as committing a fraud against the business an employee is working for, these could include payment fraud, procurement fraud, and exploiting assets and confidential information.

However, employers could tackle these internal threats by implementing effective audits, Mr Williams said. Figures from the national cyber crime and fraud prevention centre reveal that 47% of frauds were uncovered as a result of successfully applied internal controls.

He said: “The ability of a call centre to operate effectively is almost entirely reliant on the trust of the customers it is working for. Thousands of contact centre workers handle sensitive financial and personal data daily and it is paramount that this is sufficiently protected.

“As such, any breach of rules which expose these confidential details is a serious issue.

“Employee fraud could not just damage the business’s reputation, but impact it financially, from a regulatory perspective, and also have significant internal implications.

“On a more national level, it doesn’t just jeopardise the future of the individual business, but potentially the reputation of the entire industry.

“It is for this reason that call centre managers must implement thorough audit and regulations to ensure proper procedures are followed in relation to sensitive information, but also to identify and effectively tackle any instances of staff fraud immediately.”

Mr Williams, who has extensive experience in acting on some of the UK’s most high-profile fraud cases, has offered his top four tips on what call centre managers can do to safeguard themselves against employee fraud.

 

Background checks are key

When hiring an employee to handle confidential data and interact with the public in potentially challenging circumstances, trustworthiness and competency is essential.

As such, one of the most important tools for a prospective employer to utilise is the background check.

This enables a manager to assess the individual’s suitability for the role to ensure the most appropriate people are employed.

An effective background check can review an individual’s employment, criminal, and in some instances financial information to ascertain their suitability.

For employees who will be exposed to particularly sensitive or confidential information, it is advised that this be coupled with a reference, both personal and professional, along with a mock working scenario, which can demonstrate the worker’s capabilities and character.

A background check is a successful line of defence which allows you to safeguard your business against fraud and crime. Failing to undertake this could leave you and your staff and business vulnerable to reputational, regulatory, and financial damage.

Surprise audits

While routine audits of the business and its internal procedures can be effective at monitoring the call centre’s progress, a surprise audit has been shown to be the most successful method of identifying fraudulent staff behaviour.

According to research, the duration of employee fraud can be reduced by 50% by utilising spontaneous audits, while the median financial loss from this activity was also cut by 43.4%.

Spending time to audit procedures surrounding customer security could help to identify any potentially worrying internal data or trends.

Examining whether security checks were carried out in line with the company’s policies, or whether financial information was transmitted securely could serve to protect the call centre against fraudulent practices.

Not only will this help to eradicate any damaging behaviour, it will help to shape future policies and strengthen the business going forwards.

 

Thorough training

Staff could be left vulnerable to fraudulent third-party manipulation, or inadvertently compromise information, due to a lack of training.

Reinforcing and educating staff about what constitutes fraud at work, and implementing stringent anti-fraud policies, will help to eradicate potentially criminal activity at work. Fraud isn’t simply stealing money from an employer or customer, acts can include tampering with cheques or information, false representation for example in an application, wrongfully failing to disclose information – such as a criminal record or conviction, or disclosing confidential information.

Educating employees about the basics of identifying fraudulent behaviour could help to dramatically reduce fraud in the workplace. Signs of fraud could include living beyond their means, a disregard for internal procedures, medical issues, or gambling or financial concerns, reluctance to take holiday, or an unprofessionally close association with customers.

 

Site security is vital

Ensuring customers feel secure in sharing their confidential information safely to your website is key.

Most call centres will have a website where customers can visit and log into their personal account, which could contain private medical records, financial or personal information.

In order to contact a call centre support member, some customers may have to input passwords, email addresses, phone numbers, or usernames.

As such, customers must be reassured that the information they are inputting is being securely protected.

Call centres should ensure their site is protected by an SSL certificate, which not only ensures information is transmitted safely, but demonstrates confidence in the site’s authenticity.

An SSL certificate ensures that the sensitive information is transmitted across the internet in an encrypted format to ensure that only the intended recipient can read it securely.

This not only protects it against potential identity thieves and hackers, but also safeguards against employees who may have been manipulated into disclosing customers information to a third-party.

Techniquest brings the tricks and treats for Half Term

By Raspberry Jim,

With Half Term on the way, Techniquest has revealed its Halloween-themed line-up of entertainment for family friendly fun.

The science discovery centre, based in Cardiff Bay, will be indulging in all things spooktacular with two special Halloween themed shows. The first show, Graham the Ghost, will introduce children to Techniquest’s very own Casper. With an interactive plot, children will have to help Graham, a friendly ghost, pass a test to join the Ghost Union after he loses his glow.

The centre will also be hosting a Spooky Science show all week, where visitors can find out if a pumpkin can carve itself into creepy faces, or if coins can scream.  There’ll also be a chance to find out whether science can help make ghosts or mix potions.

For something a little less scary, the Star Tours show will also be available all week. Star Tours takes the family on a journey into the night sky, following constellations and learning all about how stars live and die.

As well as its shows, the centre’s main exhibition floor will be open all week for visitors hoping to keep the family occupied. For those looking forward to getting in the spooky spirit, they are encouraged to come along in their favourite costume.

 For adults, Techniquest’s Halloween festivities will begin on Thursday October 26, when After Hours makes its deadly return. Dressed in lab coats and faced with a grisly crime scene, visitors will be asked to solve the case using CSI techniques. Enjoying a full bar and food on offer from The Grazing Shed, the event is strictly for over 18s.

Lesley Kirkpatrick, CEO at Techniquest, said: “We can’t wait to kick off our Halloween celebrations next week, and there’s so much on offer for the whole family. Even though it’s Half Term, there’s still an opportunity for children to learn in a fun and colourful environment, and to engage with STEM learning with friends and family.”

Greenaway Scott acts on over £100m worth of deals

By Raspberry Jim,

A leading Cardiff business advisory firm has acted on over £100 million worth of lucrative deals over the past year, it has been revealed.

Award-winning Greenaway Scott has achieved the impressive results after working on a number of high-profile disposals, management buy outs, and acquisitions, with the combined deals achieving an aggregate value in excess of £100 million.

The firm, which offers commercially considered legal advice across a range of sector specialisms, advised over 13 fast-growing companies including Imspex Diagnostics, TrakCel, Flexicare Medical, and CoolTherm during this period.

Its most recent significant deal saw the firm, led by managing director Nigel Greenaway, take a major step into the digital currency market, advising world leading BitCoin trader Vaultoro.

With help from Greenaway Scott’s corporate team, the Bitcoin leader was able to successfully secure a seven figure investment from German-based company Finlab AG. The major funding boost will enable Vaultoro to expand its offering to incorporate additional currencies into its real-time trading platform.

On the landmark achievement for the Cardiff-based team Mr Greenaway said: Greenaway Scott is proving to be a leading business advisory force not just across Wales, but across the international business market with these figures proving to be a testament to the hard work of our specialist teams.

Our focus this year has been to expand our offering and explore diverse international markets which provide enhanced growth opportunities for us. In respect of the Vaultoro deal, we feel this has undoubtedly been achieved, and we are delighted to have assisted them in securing this seven figure sum.

Thanks to our success this year, we are now planning ahead for further growth in 2018, with the aim of researching further opportunities in fast-growing markets such as Bitcoin. Constant re- evaluation of our offering and growth is vital to ensure we continue to meet our clients’ needs, while staying on top of industry trends.

We look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for us in the next year.

Employers urged to be more transparent around workplace mental health

By Raspberry Jim,

Employers across Wales are being urged to adopt more transparent attitudes to mental health as it’s revealed one in six workers struggle with the issue.

Leading mental health expert at CJCH Solicitors Keith James is calling on businesses to become more proactive and inclusive in supporting staff dealing with issues including depression, stress, and anxiety in the workplace.

Mr James, whose specialist firm has the largest mental health law department in South Wales, is speaking out ahead of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday. The global initiative, which aims to create a worldwide discussion surrounding mental illness, is this year highlighting the reality of mental health in the workplace.

This comes as Welsh Government figures have recently revealed that 90% of employees who take time off work due to stress, instead gave another reason for their absence, such as a stomach upset or headache. While the statistics also reveal that one in six workers is struggling with these issues.

No-one dealing with the daily struggle of depression, anxiety, or stress should be left to suffer silently for fear of discrimination. Equally, workers should not be afraid to speak to managers about mental health-related absences.

Introducing change must start from the top. Managers must adopt more transparent attitudes towards mental health as a priority, in order to encourage a culture of inclusivity and openness throughout the Welsh business economy.

I am delighted to see that workplace mental health will form the basis of this year’s World Mental Health Day, as I feel this is an issue that will only worsen if not tackled sensitively and co- operatively.

In a bid to support the mental wellbeing of its own valued team, CJCH provides a 24/7 dedicated employee help line, which includes mental health and wellness support, at the firm.

Ahead of World Mental Health Day, Mr James has offered his top tips to businesses to encourage greater discussion and understanding around mental health in the workplace.

Recognising stress

Stress is often dismissed an inevitability in a busy working environment. However, when stress exceeds the norm, it can have a serious impact on a workforce, affecting its productivity, the wellbeing of staff members, and damage working relationships.

Being able to identify the signs before it spirals to unhealthy levels could help to ease the pressures on individuals.

Signs can include a drop in performance, increased sickness absence, a change to someone’s personality and attitude, which could include becoming withdrawn, overly emotional, or argumentative, higher staff turnover, and increasing complaints.

Recognising this and dealing with it early is essential.

Encouraging positive language and openness in the workplace

According to figures 49% of workers would not be comfortable disclosing a mental health issue at work.

As a result it is essential that those coping with a mental health issue feel supported enough in their environment to come forward if they are struggling. Adopting positive language in discussions around mental health can also change attitudes, and takin a stance against discriminatory terms, such as lunatic or nutter, can aid this change.

Creating a confidential space where employees can visit to discuss any worries or concerns at work could also alleviate pressures. Also creating an open-door policy for a specifically trained employee, who is able to support colleagues with mental health, could help address any issues effectively.

Introducing quarterly talks with specialists from charities including Mind and Gofal could also help to encourage further discussion and understanding around mental health.

Develop an action plan

Employers should attempt to work with employees to develop an effective way to identify the triggers which affect their mental health problems at work.

Creating an action plan which highlights mental health signs, stress triggers, emergency contacts, and what support they require will ultimately assist the staff members with their issues on a more personal level.

Encourage people to seek advice and support

Employers should encourage any employee who requires assistance to speak with a professional counsellor or GP to help them work through their anxiety, stress, or depression. Leaving vital information and helpline details for organisations including Mind (0300 123 3393), the Samaritans (116 123), and the Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line (0300 5000 927) at communal points in the office can also provide support.

Law firm CJCH wins anti-piracy contract from movie effects software creators

By Raspberry Jim,

An award-winning special effects company which worked on Hollywood blockbusters including Guardians of the Galaxy has teamed up with Cardiff-based law firm CJCH.

Visual effects company Foundry, which produces the creative software used to deliver films such as Avatar, Inception, and Guardians of the Galaxy, has appointed the law firm to protect its intellectual property.

CJCH has a global reputation for its expertise in fighting copyright piracy, and recently won Welsh Government backing to establish and run an anti-piracy hub creating more than 70 jobs.

Established in 1996, Foundry is headquartered in London, with offices in Manchester, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley.

Its software is used in the film, TV, design, gaming, virtual reality, automotive, apparel and education industries, and the company has worked with some of the world’s most renowned studios.

CJCH will fulfil an anti-piracy and compliance role, tracking down illegal users of Foundry visual effects software, Nuke (visual effects), Modo (3D modelling), Mari (high resolution 3D painting), and Katana (high efficiency CG look development and lighting).

Nuke software has been used in many recent blockbusters, including Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar and The Twilight Saga.

CJCH has helped recoup millions of euros for clients in recent years, and targeted initiatives in Spain alone last year generated over 500,000 euros in settlements for one software client.

Steve Rees, of the CJCH intellectual property (IP), anti-piracy and compliance team, said: We are excited to be involved in a new venture with Foundry, given the success we’ve had with clients in other sectors of licence compliance.

Foundry’s work with visual effects is world renowned and to be protecting their IP is an exciting new challenge for the firm.

VFX (visual effects) winners at Academy Awards, whose tools were provided by Foundry, include: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar, Inception, Ex Machina, and Interstellar.

CJCH, a Wales top-20 law firm with headquarters in Cardiff, has grown to more than 100 members of staff. Its expertise covers the full range of legal services including commercial, corporate, dispute resolution, intellectual property, mental health, employment law, motoring, property, family, child care, crime, wills & probate.

Further information about the firm is available at www.cjchsolicitors.co.uk.

 

Expert advice on challenging a false neglect or wrongful death allegation

By Raspberry Jim,

The sudden and tragic death of a nursing home or residential patient can be devastating for all those involved.

From the family who have lost their loved one, to the facility and its staff who worked tirelessly to treat the elderly resident in their final days, a loss can be profound.

However, an added allegation of neglect, which may have contributed to the resident’s death, could exacerbate the family’s grief and have significant legal consequences for the nursing or residential home involved.

Earlier this month nine private care homes in West Sussex were placed under investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) over allegations of ill-treatment, which may have resulted in the death of a number of residents.

This is just the latest in a string of investigations into alleged neglect and abuse at care facilities across England, with numerous homes closed or placed into special measures by the health and social care inspectorate.

Figures from the CQC released earlier this year show that of 4,042 residential nursing homes inspected found that 1,496 – or 37 per cent – were considered unsafe.

These statistics will be troubling for the majority of nursing and residential homes across the country which endeavour to protect and safeguard against the neglect of those in their care.

Consultant Phillip Williams, of leading serious fraud, crime and regulatory law firm Blackfords LLP, said facilities were facing a higher level of scrutiny in recent years.

He said: “With a number of high profile cases of neglect and related deaths being reported this year alone, residential and care homes are now under a significant level of pressure to ensure they meet standards.

“While it cannot be argued that this level of scrutiny is vital to ensuring the highest quality of care to elderly and vulnerable patients, it could lead to those in the industry feeling understandably concerned over the potential for being faced with allegations.”

But what can be done if a facility feels it is wrongfully accused of neglect? And, if this turns into an allegation of wrongful death of a resident, what steps can they take next?

Blackfords LLP specialises in representing care homes accused of regulatory breaches.

He said: “Any allegation is traumatic, but in cases where blame has been wrongly attributed, it is imperative that nursing and residential home practitioners feel they can speak out and seek assistance.

“Just as relatives have rights, so too do nursing and residential homes and their staff. In any instance where it is felt an unfair allegation is made, it is vital you seek legal assistance at the earliest opportunity.”

On dealing with an allegation of neglect, Mr Williams stressed that certain criteria had to proved by the complainant.

He said: “An accusation of neglect or contributing to a patient’s death, can be understandably upsetting for the facility and its staff.

“However, in order for an allegation of neglect to be made, certain criteria must have been demonstrated by the facility.

“For example, care home negligence can be demonstrated through factors including emotional and social neglect, medical negligence, basic needs negligence, or personal hygiene neglect.

“Issues within these categories could include malnutrition, lack of clean bedding, ineffective lifting aids, and failure to provide medication.

“Nursing or residential homes which have stringent checks in place to ensure the effective care of their residents, will be able to present these in their defence should a legal case arise.

“It is vital to remember that in any of these instances, the complainant must have substantial evidence that the facility or staff member was abusive and caused significant harm or suffering to the patient.

However, if it is an individual staff member who is accused of neglect or abusive behaviour, what steps can the facility take to defend itself.

“Staff who work at residential and nursing facilities are entrusted with the care of elderly patients during extremely vulnerable times of their lives. As such, rigorous screening processes, including Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, are carried out.

“Should a legal allegation arise at a facility, managers can prove that their staff underwent the necessary DBS checks before interacting with patients.

“Furthermore, practitioners can introduce a raft of measures such as introducing staff checks, care plans, and charts to demonstrate how frequently and in what capacity a staff member was caring for a patient. This proof could help to counteract any false accusations brought against an individual employee if an investigation progresses. It can also serve to highlight the patient’s satisfaction with the level of their care.”

Mr Williams said that in any of these instances the accused should seek legal advice from the complaint’s inception.

However, what steps do nursing and residential homes need to take in cases where a patient passes away following a neglect allegation? Could they face a wrongful death lawsuit?

Mr Williams said: “As in the case of negligence, the strength of evidence is vital. And it falls to the complainant and their solicitor to produce this once again.

“In order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a facility, a solicitor must prove the home’s conduct directly contributed to the death. For example, if the patient fell and suffered a serious injury but was consequently left without aid for a number of hours and then died.

“They must also prove neglect and also liability, as in the case of a serious fall, inadequate or faulty lifting aids were provided which contributed to the fall.

“It must also be noted that the injury or abuse must be judged as severe or timely enough to have resulted in the eventual death.

“In relation to the example of a fall, the death must be linked with symptoms arising from this, or occur soon after,” Mr Williams said. “An unrelated matter which arises some months later would not necessarily leave you liable.”

Mr Williams once again stressed the importance of effective protocol and filing systems in order to challenge any potentially false claims. A well maintained patient care plan, or daily chart system could be the difference between a wrongful death conviction or not, he stressed.