The AI Blog

9th March

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The Importance of Vetting

We are all too regularly reminded of the importance of screening prospective employees, political candidates and organisation members. Those who are outed, for whatever reason, are quickly ridiculed by the press and with that the reputation of those who made the blunder landslides.

Vetting is an area which can easily be overlooked and/or underestimated. A quick Facebook search is often not enough. In this digital age a person’s online footprint and persona needs to be looked at carefully as if not the detrimental effect by something posted online can often be as bad as, or even worse, than a blunder in the physical world.

There are a whole host of open source searches which can be conducted which will uncover the true character of your chosen new acquisition. Backed up with credit checks, company checks and property checks it is possible to build up a far bigger picture of an individual or company.

Armour Intelligence has been perfecting a very flexible model of vetting prospective persons which can give those in the hiring seat total confidence in their chosen candidates. Using a combined approach of rigorous research and global hiring experience AI is well suited for providing fast and discreet vetting of employees, political candidates and organisation members for clients in the private and public sectors.

By Alexander Bowden
March 2015

29th October

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Protecting London's Prime Real Estate

The topic of security has once again been thrown into the spotlight by instability overseas and the accompanying threat of attacks on home soil from returning militants. London seems especially vulnerable and it has been impossible to miss the notable increase in Police patrols being seen across the City.

If you open any newspaper on any given day in the UK it is highly likely that you'll come across a story or an update about the 200+ large buildings and towers either planned, proposed, approved or under construction in London. The Pinnacle and Riverside South are just two buildings under construction and due for completion in the next two years. Other buildings such as North Quay 1, North Quay 2, South Quay Plaza and The Pride, which have all been proposed or approved, will soon be joining the likes of The Shard, 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin), 20 Fenchurch Street (The Walkie-Talkie), Heron Tower and most recently the Leadenhall Building (the Cheesegrater). All of these buildings are, or are set to be, iconic buildings which continue to represent London's economic muscle. These buildings are also prime targets for any would be terrorist attackers.

It is essential for property developers, property owners and security bosses to recognise the threats to these buildings and take the appropriate steps to engage in security risk reviews before the buildings open and to engage in ongoing programmes of security assurance throughout the buildings' lifetime. These measures substantially increase the effectiveness of a building's security deterrent and procedures whilst continuously developing security personnel.

I recently spoke to one of Armour Intelligence's security experts about the benefits of using Risk Reviews and Penetration Testing and how these help improve and maintain the security of a building. He explained that; “Security reviews and assurance gives prospective clients confidence in security providers' abilities because they have been independently tested. Additionally, it gives clients and property owners confidence in the security measures already in place or highlights areas of vulnerabilities that need to be addressed”.

Our expert continued that “Risk can be mitigated to an acceptable level with the implementation of a good security mixture of both ‘boots on the ground’ i.e. well-trained front of house and roving security patrols, along with access controls e.g. ID cards, biometrics and turnstile type gates and high quality CCTV systems. These security measures all combine to represent a professional security deterrent which dissuades and repels potential intruders.”.

It seems that the key to success is review and supervision. It is crucial to review security on a regular basis to make sure the risks and threats are being monitored and mitigated. Furthermore, supervision of the security workforce ensures they are briefed, up to date and in control of the security measures in place.

An increasing number of security firms are finding that independent reviews and testing by experts in security assurance is essential to maintain effective security measures and to guarantee a strong security team.

Armour Intelligence has been supplying Risk Review and Security Assurance services for an assortment of clients in the private sector since its inception.

By Alexander Bowden
October 2014

30th June

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The rise of the dashboard camera in the United Kingdom

All sorts of facts and figures have been flying around the press recently following the release of the ABI's latest research into insurance fraud. Most notably was that the number of dishonest motor claims rose by 34% in 2013 to 59,900, attempting to cheat the industry out of £811m, a 32% rise in value from 2012. These facts paint the same picture - motor fraud continues to grow and insurance premiums continue to rise.

We at Armour Intelligence believe that the most effective way to protect yourself from motor fraud, and from many other types of fraud for that matter, is to actively deter fraudsters from targeting you in the first place. Last month, AI's Head of Operations, Martyn Bird, talked about our mobile phones being our insurance fraud toolkit. This month it is dashboard cameras which are in the limelight.

Much like other people around the world - the Russians, Americans, Polish and Japanese come to mind - we Brits are slowly starting to use on-board cameras in our vehicles, something which cyclists have been doing for a while now. The number of drivers who currently utilise dash cams is only around 3%, however new research from the RAC has revealed that 4 out of 10 car owners are considering buying a dash cam.

Dashboard cameras can be purchased for as little as £30 and are a worthwhile investment for any motorist. It is never certain that your on-board camera(s) will catch an incident, be it road rage, an accident or a fraudulent claim, but it is highly likely that they will. Once more, the sight of an on-board camera, or a sign warning motorists that you have one, may deter many would be fraudsters that they shouldn’t mess with you or your vehicle.

I caught up with one of Armour Intelligence's senior insurance fraud Investigators who highlighted the advantages of dashboard cameras. She commented that; ‘more and more people realise the advantage of investing in a dashboard camera as it offers the driver a sense of safety with a growing number of road rage incidents reported each year, but most importantly it protects their no claims discount if the footage proves they were not at fault for a collision. This saves them a considerable amount of money, benefiting the individual and their insurer. In some cases the evidence may also identify opportunistic and organised fraudsters, improving chances of successful prosecution and convictions’. It is true that if a driver has video evidence of their journey and any incidents that may occur it is highly likely that any false or fraudulent claim made against them can be quickly repudiated.

Our Investigator continued that ‘if the government, motor insurers and car manufacturers worked together to implement advancing technology such as black box style driving monitors, on-board cameras and sensor technology in all new vehicles, accident figures should reduce. When accidents did occur liability could be resolved quickly thus reducing costs to the industry and the motorist’.

With any new technology there will be some who use it for good and some who use it for bad. Dashboard cameras are no exception and the dawning of new age technology in vehicles may only open up an even more advanced system of fraudulent crime which ultimately uses the same equipment to commit offences which it is supposed to protect us against.

By Alexander Bowden
June 2014

16th May

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Your Insurance Fraud Tool Kit

Opportunistic and professional insurance fraud is on the rise and anyone driving on the road these days could easily find themselves falling victim of such scams. Often the first indication that you have been duped is contact from your insurer trying to find out the circumstances. On other occasions the insured is often amazed to find the extent of injuries, occupancy and damage to the other vehicle. The knock on effects can manifest themselves as: loss of no claims bonus; higher premiums; and even court appearances. So how do we combat these criminal activities? Be a scout, BE PREPARED.

These days we all carry our insurance fraud tool kit in the car; in fact it is never far away. We call it an insurance fraud tool kit but you may call it a mobile or smart phone and it can be a most useful weapon in the fight against fraud. If you are involved in a collision no matter how minor, produce your tool kit and start snapping, some of your photos may provide vital evidence to combat fraud.

What should you photograph?

  • Take a photo before you exit the car showing the drivers view of the collision.
  • Photograph the scene
    • The other vehicle
    • The damage to all and any vehicles
    • The occupants of the other vehicles involved (especially the driver)
    • Registration numbers

You should also note details of people involved and any possible witnesses.

Lets face it, we use our phones for almost everything else these days so why not use it to protect ourselves. It may well be that nothing comes of the collision but in the event that things go wrong you may well be able to provide vital evidence for insurance investigators to support your history of the event.

Don’t be fooled by friendly third parties, you need to protect yourself and it is always better to be on the safe side. Happy snapping.

By Martyn Bird
May 2014

17th March

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“Are you a spy?” - “No”.

Human beings are naturally inquisitive creatures. For those who work for a company or in an industry where confidentiality is paramount then you'll all have been asked the entitled question or something of similar effect and you will usually always give the same answer, much to the disappointment of the excited individual posing the question. Whether you work in health, media, or like us at Armour Intelligence, in security and investigations, the truth is that people are always interested in what they don't know about especially when it is none of their business.

So, if you are not a spy but your work is highly confidential, what is the correct balance of being able to talk to someone about your job without being rude and more importantly, without compromising client and company confidentiality? The answer is very simple. Don't talk about detail and never feel pressured or tempted to do so, no matter how much they tell you about their job and no matter how much alcohol you may have consumed. There is often plenty you can talk about regarding your company and work without breaching security or confidentiality.

Any information which is already in the public domain from company websites or publications are a good place to begin and this information will often be more interesting to the social interrogator as it will have a much broader amount of measurable achievements, which you, as a member of the company will have contributed to achieving. Most reputable companies will have at least some facts and case studies which have been quoted or made available to the public online or in print.

For example, if I am subject to the stasi-like questioning of a highly curious friend or acquantance I could talk about AI's work providing security assurance at the Olympics as outlined as a case study on our website or I could talk about the importance of our highly trained investigators working alongside big data in a two-pronged investigative approach which is described in our ‘People Provide Proof’ video and article on our news section of the website and on our social media sites.

In other words, keep to the PR track which is not only safe but it also promotes the campaign and supports your company.

However, always think before you answer questions probing your work. Keep your answers vague, stick to the material outlined in your PR campaigns and if in doubt say nothing. As we know, in the security and investigations industry, it is imperative that we put the integrity of our company and clients first. Even the smallest of breaches to the most un-likeliest of people can lead to lawsuits, bankruptcy and even prison sentences not to mention the exposure and effect such an act would have on our client.

As I conclude this short article it seems that the points raised are obvious, but we have all been witness, probably countless times, to someone from any multitude of industries saying too much in public. For us, more than any others, this is a huge no-no.

Hell, tell them you are a spy!

By Alexander Bowden
March 2014

18th February

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Security Assurance - Be sure to be sure

Armour Intelligence has been providing successful security assurance programmes to our clients since our first Security Assurance contract for a major national provider in the Transport Sector during the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, and it is a core operation of our business. As I alluded to in last month's blog, AI has a unique advantage over our competitors as we employ, almost exclusively, decorated ex-Royal Military Police and ex-Police personnel who have attained at least 16 years' service. This month I will explore why AI’s Security Assurance Programmes are making a difference for our clients and ultimately saving them money.

During the summer of 2012, the biggest security operation in post-WWII London took place as people from around the world flocked to the capital to enjoy the hugely successful Olympic Games. Armour Intelligence was hard at work. Our client required assistance to verify the capability and performance of those firms to whom they had contracted some of their security. AI was tasked to check the staff provided, their training, their way of working and in particular their ability to follow the necessary protocols and communicate clearly with the general public. At short notice, AI formed crack teams of experienced AI staff alongside highly qualified associates sourced from our large pool of associates from across the UK. Our teams visited and checked all sites every day, at specified and random times. Their interviews and observations were backed up by detailed checks carried out by our Intelligence Analysts, and inadequate or suspect performance was notified to the client within minutes in every case, allowing swift remedial action. Collateral information on general risks identified was also passed on to the client.

The Olympic Games passed off without incident, and our client was grateful that they had been given, at short notice and reasonable cost, a very effective re-enforcement to their own stretched teams. Recommendations in our detailed post-operation report have been incorporated into client and provider Standing Operating Procedures and AI continues to provide two full-time Security Assurance Teams to our client in locations across the UK.

AI Security Assurance centres on providing protection through prevention. Our teams test security systems and contracted personnel to implement specific actions to resolve potential security weaknesses and threats. Our Security Assurance personnel are called upon to provide: training oversight; penetration testing; interviews of the client’s contracted security personnel; discreet observation of day and night time security; and expert and actionable reports.

The reports that AI produce are unique. Our colour coding reporting system offers the client specific outcomes and evidence in order of severity and importance which are highly and immediately actionable.

Companies who engage our Security Assurance programmes will see vast improvements in the effectiveness and performance of their security systems and personnel. They will be sure to be sure.

By Alexander Bowden
February 2014

15th January

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Why employing ex-military personnel puts Armour Intelligence at the forefront of the Investigations market

When stepping into a company staffed exclusively by highly experienced and commended ex-military professionals, it took me only a couple of days to realise why hiring ex-military personnel has put Armour Intelligence at a distinct advantage from other Private Investigation and Security Assurance companies working in the civilian world today.

AI has a strategy of hiring only the very best personnel. Typically AI personnel have at least 16 years’ service in the Armed Forces, mainly in the Royal Military Police (RMP), with the rare exception of myself, a humble history graduate.

As Administrator of the company, I can see how our people consistently deliver results through hard, dedicated and insightful work whilst being notably organised and punctual.

I recently caught up with two senior AI Investigators whilst they were working from our London HQ on a fraud case.

Donna and Jonathon are both senior investigators with AI. Between them they have over 35 years’ experience in the upper echelons of the RMP. During their respective services they worked on high profile cases with highly successful prosecution rates.

Donna and Jon explained to me how from the outset of their Basic Training, they were immediately baptised into the military way of life. In the military one is effectively at work 24 hours a day working until the job is done, which means overcoming boundaries and going through the proverbial brick-wall if necessary. The extensive and continuous training received in the RMP instils strong attributes of ambition in its personnel which helps to explain their often long and distinguished military careers and the highly successful civilian careers they can have afterwards.

The RMP have to work within the legal parameters of the Home Office and Military Law whilst being open to review at any time from the Home Office. Alongside this, much of the work is time pressured and requires a great deal of mental and physical stamina. All these professional characteristics and constraints breed the unofficial RMP mantra of “adapt and overcome ”.

The core Army values of: courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment are unarguably strong and it is these values which our personnel carry out into the civilian field to deliver expert investigations with military level efficiency and human integrity.

The advantages of using ex-military personnel in Security Assurance, Risk Review, Fraud Detection, and Fraud Deterrence are seemingly obvious. In insurance claims work, AI has delivered fast turn around and resolution in over 85% of its cases for national insurance companies. In Security Assurance for the Railway Industry, AI has delivered actionable Security Assurance reporting for the majority of UK railway stations which, if actioned will make our railway stations much safer. AI has also initiated a hugely successful security pilot into detecting and deterring suicidal contacts on the railways, which already in its first weeks is proving to be a success.

By Alexander Bowden
January 2014