John Dobson, chief executive of SmartSearch

This year has seen several large-scale attempts by organised criminals to defraud the government’s coronavirus support schemes.

This has brought into sharp focus just how important due diligence and Know Your Customer best practice is for any organisation.

This week we heard the news that as much as £1bn in universal credit benefit fraud has been prevented from being paid out.

Fortunately, for the taxpayer, the attempted fraud was spotted, but not before officials working in the Department for Work and Pensions unknowingly confirmed thousands of stolen identities.

This comes after fraudulent claims on a massive scale against the furlough scheme and the Bounce Back Loan scheme, earlier this year where criminals have attempted to profit by using false identities.

In the latest case at the DWP, it took a junior civil servant to notice that many fraudulent claims were being made to the same bank account because the online verification hadn’t picked it up, or wasn’t being done? That raises the question as to why there aren’t more secure online processes in place to establish identity in government departments.

But it should also act as a reminder to all regulated businesses, especially operating in the property sector, that the threat of fraud and money laundering is at an all time high as criminals seek to exploit the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Verifying your customer ID is the first line of defence against this fraud. The technology is available to make a remote ID check for an individual online in less than two seconds, and a check for business in less than two minutes, with bank account checks, facial recognition and document verification to add layers of security.

These are browser-based systems that can be up and running within 24 hours. With just a name, address and date of birth, the system uses dual-bureau credit reference agency (CRA) data and the Dow Jones Global Watchlist to perform a full AML check, with automatic sanctions and politically exposed persons (PEP) screening. Advanced AI automatically triggers enhanced due diligence on any matches and resolves almost all ‘false positives’.

These are challenging times for any business, especially with the pressure on the property sector at the moment, which is why it’s vital to ensure your business is secure and protected.