Risks posed by household staff and children

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Risks posed by household staff and children

Household staff pose a number of potential risks to the occupants of wealthy households. And so do their children. What are those risks and what should you do to reduce them?

The risks

The main risks from household staff are:

  • Theft of belongings because of the privileged access to a household afforded to domestic staff.
  • Theft of data if staff have access to personal information.
  • Compromising the standing of the occupants of wealthy households through their use of social media either inadvertently or deliberately.

Children also pose a risk of compromising the standing of their wealthy parents via their use of social media.

Household staff may not be well paid and, paradoxically, they work in an environment of affluence. They are presented with opportunities. Relatively few act on those opportunities but a proportion will and the easier and more tempting the opportunities, the greater the risk of theft becomes.

Theft of data, such as passwords, bank account details and, potentially, commercially sensitive information is most likely to take place when laxity develops on the part of the householder and a member of household staff is presented with an opportunity. But some thefts of data can be well planned and not just opportunistic.

Inappropriate use of social media by household staff might involve gossip about valuable property, comings and goings, routines, periods when a house is going to be vacant and myriad information that allows criminals to build a picture of a householder's life. Much of the inappropriate use of social media by household staff might be innocent in nature but some of it, exacerbated perhaps by differences of opinion or perceived wrongdoing, might be malevolent.

Children's use of social media is likely to be innocent but somewhat reckless, giving away information that criminals can use.

What should householders do to minimise the risks?

Know who you are employing

If you don't know your staff well, consider carrying out a background check to ascertain their identity and integrity. Checks are inexpensive and can be carried out quickly – the member of household staff will need to give their permission but refusal to acquiesce might raise sufficient doubts. Checks can be made on home addresses, date of birth, past work history, criminal records, authenticity of documents, right of abode and right to work, credit worthiness, and other aspects of a person's background. Checks can be cross referenced and assessments of social media use can be carried out to provide added confidence that a person is bona fide.

Protect your physical property

  • Ensure that you use keys that can't be copied
  • Install asset specific alarms to protect particularly valuable items such as paintings.
  • Keep small valuable items in security rated safes and restrict access.
  • Use CCTV to record access and exit from key points on your property.
  • Inscribe valuable items of property and photograph them to facilitate identification in the event of theft.
  • Protect your data
  • Use unique and strong passwords for each account and change them regularly.
  • Don’t give out your username and password to domestic staff or leave such information lying around.
  • Don't leave items of IT hardware lying around with data accessible to third parties. Use screen locks that activate after only short periods of non-use and get into the habit of locking screens when you are not using your PC, laptop, or tablet.

Issue rules to household staff and children about disclosure of family information to third parties Issue guidelines to household staff and children about the information that is off-limits when they use social media, such as your business and personal diaries or schedules, personal data such as your date or place of birth, home address or primary e-mail address.

Alexei Cantacuzene-Speransky is Business Development Director at Rose Partners


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