Using Technology to Fight Crime

The cost of crimes against British small and medium-sized companies totalled at least £722m last year, according to research by AXA Insurance (BBC, 15th March 2007).These significant costs increase the incentives for firms to invest in measures to prevent and deter such crimes.There have been several stories in the news recently showing how technology is being used by criminals; now organisations of all types are themselves fighting back with technology-based security systems.

Cheating in GCSE and A level exams through the theft of exam papers is being combated by new tagging systems.Exam board Edexcel is trialling the use of radio frequency tags such as those used on clothes and CDs in shops.These tags will allow compliance officers to carry out the checks on exam papers stored within school more quickly (BBC, 10th May 2007).

Another recent news story shows how tens of thousands of pounds have been emptied from people's bank accounts by a man who steals their cash cards from leisure centre lockers (BBC, 16th July 2007).The man wanted for questioning in relation to the crimes has not yet been caught, although police have images of him captured on CCTV cameras.The fact that the man has targeted high price gyms is an illustration of a growing trend by identity fraudsters.

Experian, the credit rating agency, suggests that these fraudsters are increasingly targeting wealthy people (BBC, 11th July 2007).Whilst Experian's primary role is providing credit checking facilities within the business-to-business market, they are increasingly working directly in the consumer market.

In The Times 100 case study about the company, it highlights how Experian now provides services that allow individuals to monitor their own credit rating online, as well as developing anti-fraud methods to try and protect these new customers against identify theft.


Crime 'costs firms £722m a year' – BBC News, 15 March 2007

Exam papers tagged to beat cheats – BBC News, 10 May 2007

Search for bank card locker thief – BBC News, 16 May 2007

Identity thieves 'move upmarket' – BBC News, 11 April 2007

The Times 100 Case Study – Experian

Suggested Study Questions:

What are credit reference agencies?

What businesses would use a credit reference agency?

What influences an individual's credit rating?

For economists: How can the concept of opportunity cost be used to illustrate the decision to invest in security systems?