London, May 2014 – Equifax, the leading fraud and consumer insights expert, has published a whitepaper outlining the fraud issues and challenges facing consumer lenders. Based on exclusive YouGov research commissioned by Equifax to identify consumer attitudes to fraud, ‘What do Consumers Really Think About Fraud?’, includes contributions from Mike Levi, Professor of Criminology at Cardiff University, Ken Gallagher, Head of Operations, Economic Crime Command for the National Crime Agency and Sandra Peaston, Deputy Head of Financial Crime and Strategic Intelligence, CIFAS.
Findings from the YouGov research* suggest that attitudes to fraud are significantly influenced by the financial climate, with 65% of respondents believing economic conditions will make people more likely to be less than truthful on a credit application. Whilst more than half of respondents said they think others might act fraudulently when it comes to applying for new credit, 63% said they had never been ‘less than truthful’ when completing a credit application.
The research also showed that there is a generational distinction in perceptions of what is and isn’t fraudulent behaviour with younger people more likely to see a white lie on an application as acceptable. 19% of respondents aged between 25-34 said that it was slightly acceptable not to admit to existing financial agreements when making an application compared to only 8% of over-55 year olds.
The consequences of fraudulent behaviour – even just the omission of information on an application – were, however, acknowledged by more than half of respondents, with 55% believing a credit provider will add details to the credit file of a person who has ‘lied’ on a credit application.
“As well as the current economic climate continuing to put pressure on consumers, it seems that the financial crisis has changed consumer attitudes to big business, perhaps making it more acceptable to be less than truthful to get a better deal” explained John Marsden, Identity and Fraud expert at Equifax. “We believe this could be contributing to the rise in fraud compared to pre-recession levels.
“Experts at the roundtable also discussed the fact that the motivators for credit fraud vary for different consumers and their individual circumstances. For example, in order to secure the best deal, people making new applications for credit may decide not to disclose previous agreements. While this action could potentially put them at risk of financial distress in the future if their circumstances change, would they consider it to be a deliberately fraudulent act?”
The industry experts at the Equifax roundtable agreed that better understanding of consumer behaviour, and how this could be positively influenced and changed early in the application process, is central to deterring fraud. By raising awareness at the very start of an application, of the direct consequences of dishonesty – the impact on an individual’s credit status, the financial impact of a fine or even a prison sentence – could lead to the act of fraud being discounted by the applicant as simply not worth the risk.
“The ever-changing landscape of fraud means that businesses need to examine their own practices, looking at data in a different way and using it intelligently to make a cultural shift on fraud prevention” concluded John Marsden. “It is a big gamble for businesses to adopt a different approach by tackling fraud at the front end of customer acquisition or engagement. But industry fraud figures at our roundtable agreed that change needs to happen, and happen soon.”
*Source YouGov: Equifax survey of 2,000 consumers conducted November 2013