Always vigilant in securely disposing of paperwork displaying personal information and with two security software systems on my computer, having my identity stolen and my emails hacked wasn’t something I was unduly concerned about but I should have been.
In Part 1, I wrote about the iPhone scam. All Orange users, take comfort in being more secure than most. Their Fraud Dept wrote asking me to contact them. They’re on the ball, their systems being triggered by multiple applications from my address that an ‘impersonator’ might be at work. Our fraudster was becoming rather greedy and had now also started asking for phones in my husband’s name. Every supplier, except Orange, sent them out. They then put a CIFAS notification on my credit file.
So, returning to the request from the Police that I tackle the main sorting office, I rang asking to speak to the person responsible for security. Receptionist was all of a fluster and put me through to ‘Dave’ who really didn’t sound like the man I needed. Rang again and, after a little cajoling, gained the mobile number of another Dave and left him a message outlining my problem. Within an hour, he was on the phone worrying about security. What a hoot. Dave’s responsible for security and said his mobile number’s absolutely confidential and not for release to the public. All callers should be directed to a security help desk in London. That went well then. In fairness, Dave listened to the story attentively when I mentioned the Police asked me to call and undertook to make some in-house checks to see if mail was being interfered with.
The Police used the packaging to trace the two delivery companies used and interview the management each of which said their drivers were beyond reproach, although they would be reprimanded for handing over ‘signed for’ packages in the street. Police enquiries to the phone companies were a waste of time because the numbers used to ring to order the phones were traced to stolen phones.
Next, my Paypal account was accessed and my bank account cleared out. Fortunately, Paypal alerted me to unusual activity and the money was still in their system, having left my account, so was returned. This was tracked to two individuals in New York.
Within the last month, several Sim cards have been ordered from O2 using my details. O2 can’t see the problem as they’re not costing me anything. I pointed out that my details are being used to obtain goods and services and that they must be using a fulfilment house so could they please give me the number if they weren’t prepared to do anything themselves. The number provided was straight back to their Customer Services Department. One Sim card has been received, the other two failed to arrive. One must assume the post is being interfered with again. So it’s back to re-open the crime report for me. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was reported on TV that this is the latest scam; criminals are using Sim cards ordered fraudulently to target mobile phone scam sales. Here we go again.
The repercussions of identity theft are endless. Daughter couldn’t open a student account without much fuss, the process taking five months to conclude. When Son tried to open an account the bank clerk said he’d never seen anything like it as he had an adverse credit rating, even though he’s a minor and never had credit. I’ve had a business bank account with NatWest for five years and I’m battling to open another account right now. They want me to prove all over again who I am, although they have passport copies, etc, on their file already. Then they want Experian reports. Experian won’t release them without proof of identity. No credit checks are straightforward because of the CIFAS alert on the credit file.
However, most identity theft has nothing to do with the Internet or lax computer or network security. Have a look at the following tips and see if you can tighten things up:
1. Make sure nobody sees you entering your PIN number.
2. Shred everything using a cross cut shredder. Make sure address panels on sales brochures and catalogues aren’t overlooked.
3. Destroy digital data. When changing computer, simply deleting data or reformatting the hard drive isn’t enough, the information remaining available to anyone with some technical skill.
4. Be diligent about checking statements. Check the entries match your records so you can quickly identify any suspicious activity. File statements away so they’re not available to the opportunist thief.
5. Analyse your credit report at least annually. You should review it to make sure the information is accurate and also to check there aren’t any accounts on there that you aren’t aware of.
6. Use Strong PC Protection Software. Strong anti-virus software, a good firewall, spyware protection and regular Microsoft updates to fill ‘patches’ are essential.
7. Protect your National Insurance number.
8. Internet Security. When buying online ensure that the company you are doing business with takes the security of your personal information as seriously as you do and make sure you are on a secure or encrypted web site (symbolized by a small padlock at the bottom right of the screen in Internet Explorer).
Here’s hoping you never have to claw your way out of the abyss of identity impersonation as I am currently doing.