Identity theft – words bandied about all the time and probably filed in the mental folder, “It Won’t Happen To Me”. But it did and many months later I’m still living with its piercing impact on my life. And it’s affecting the whole family, even minors.
The following facts may surprise you:
- In the UK, identity fraud in itself is not a crime, although profiting from it is.
- An annual figure of £1.3 billion pa is the minimum quantifiable cost to the economy arising from identity fraud.
- Identity theft is Britain’s fastest-growing white-collar crime, increasing at nearly 500% a year.
- More than £1.6 million worth of card fraud occurs on UK plastic cards every day. A fraudulent transaction takes place every eight seconds.
- Experts report that a victim can spend anywhere from six months to two years recovering from identity theft.
The first I knew that I’d been ‘done’ was when I rang O2 following collection of a parcel my neighbour had taken in for me. She reported the appearance of a van on our drive which swiftly drove off as the parcel was given to her. Missed that one then. O2 had sent me an iPhone 4. Lovely but why? Immediately, I rang O2 asking why they’d sent the phone, only to be told “I expect you’ve won it”. I don’t think so dear. It took dogged persistence to reach past the call taker to report arrival of unordered phone and, finally, was told I’d be contacted within 48 hours. No call. Rang again to speak to Fraud Dept and go through the whole sorry incident once more.
I’d thought it strange the week before when the dog barked, indicating possible intruder, and I’d seen a white van without signwriting on our drive. Thinking he may be writing out a card for me to take in a parcel for next door, I opened the door and waved indicating I was in. He waved back and drove off and I thought he’d probably already posted a card through the neighbour’s door and didn’t think any more of it.
Then the fun really started. Paperwork arrived from O2, T-Mobile, Orange (more of them later), Vodafone, Three and, adding insult to injury, insurances had been taken out on the phones with yet more companies. Why on earth would goods be sent out a week in advance of the paperwork so by the time the thefts are discovered, they’re long gone. Worse still, the caller’s asked for an email address to which delivery time and details can be sent instead of using the one recorded by the account holder. But the stupidity’s compounded. I have three accounts in my name with O2, mine and one each for Son and Daughter. The numpty who took the O2 iPhone order had allowed the fraudster to open a fourth account using my details and a different mother’s maiden name. Now, I grant you there are many things we may have in duplicate but mothers aren’t one of them. So, with three official accounts registered to my name and address, all using the same details, some O2 desk waller opens another. The call taker couldn’t see the problem saying we might have several pets and therefore use several names. Is that not breathtakingly stupid? Fraudster nirvana. Then, my digging revealed the criminal had telephoned O2 claiming to have lost the delivery details and they were repeated over the phone.
Really frightening was the knowledge that our home was being watched and delivery vans intercepted. Just by chance (although I believe in synchronicity), the packaging for the remaining six phones was dumped in a recycling bin several roads away which just happened to belong to our plumber. Recognising my name, he brought it all round to me.
Several days later I had a call from a credit card company asking if I’d been to Carphone Warehouse trying to buy a phone. Nope, not me. Luckily, as the card was taken out to transfer balances to, there was insufficient credit and the card was declined. At last, a recognised crime had taken place. The process of cancelling all credit and debit cards began. Have you any idea how difficult it is to circumvent the call takers and connect with those who can really help? I sincerely hope you never have to find out.
The Police were involved but initially said they couldn’t log the theft of the seven iPhones as a crime because I, personally, hadn’t been defrauded. It was only the attempted use of credit card details which resulted in the issue of a crime report number some days later.
The parcel packaging was handed to the Police who visited us three times. Then, guess what? I was asked if I’d investigate the local sorting office – yes, the Police asked ME to deal with them. I did. More about that, Orange, Sim cards, Paypal and Barclays, NatWest and Experian next time. Yes, the fun just goes on and on . . .