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Following a rapid rise in fraud losses in the 1980s, which mostly affected retail lenders, a number of the lenders met in 1987 to consider their position. When asked for their input, the police suggested fraud prevention be a non-competitive issue and that organisations would need to co-operate and communicate to reduce fraud successfully.

After a series of meetings, the retailers came up with the unique concept of Cifas: the first data sharing scheme of its kind in the world. Cifas became operational in late 1988.

The Office of Fair Trading and the National Consumer Council were both involved in establishing Cifas, which started life as an association under the auspices of the Consumer Credit Trade Association. The Information Commissioner also had a hand in developing the organisation, and is still consulted on major changes. The police have been involved from the outset and we continue to have close links with them.

Initially the name was an acronym, which stood for 'Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System’, but as the organisation’s remit broadened, the acronym was changed to the one-word Cifas.

The organisation grew rapidly in the early years and was incorporated as an independent company limited by guarantee on 22 February 1991. This is similar to the way some charities and professional bodies operate. We are not a charity but we do operate in the public interest, and any financial surplus is invested back into services for the businesses and individuals we work with.

As Cifas grew, our founder members were joined by organisations from throughout the financial services industry: first by finance and leasing organisations, then banks and credit cards, then building societies and mortgage lenders. More recently, Cifas has attracted factors and discounters, insurers, and companies specialising in savings and investments, telecommunications, energy supply, mail order and share dealing. For a full list of our members, visit our List of Members page.

Other schemes modelled on Cifas have been set up in South Africa and Germany. These operate independently.