We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Identity theft in Britain

The scale of identity theft in Britain as revealed in this story ought to be shocking, but it does not entirely surprise me. My other half used to work in the credit card industry and she has plenty of stories to tell about how careless people are in throwing out old credit card bills and other documents. The slack attitude many people adopt boggles the mind.

Of course, when our lovely government gives a grateful nation the new ID card, all be well and we will not have to worry about such stuff anymore. Er, oh, wait a minute…

15 comments to Identity theft in Britain

  • Midwesterner

    Several months ago I told friends I was buying a shredder. They were shocked. That I didn’t already have one, that is. I told them I had been burning CC stuff in a wood stove and they relaxed.

    I shred probably 3 – 5 pre-approved credit card offers a week! All these need is a some fields filled in, a signature, a presto – instant account in my name. What’s to stop people from taking them out of my mail before I can shred them?

    Also, every week I’m getting 1 or 2 credit card check packets for cards that I do have. Same story, what if someone gets to them before I do?

    What do we do? How do I stop them from mailing this stuff to me?

  • GCooper

    Midwesterner’s beaten me to it.

    It’s all well and good telling punters to be more careful with our data, but the true culprits here are the banks and credit card companies.

    Just like his, on an almost daily basis, my doormat is liberally splattered with credit card offers and all the rest of this insecure junk.

    Frankly, it’s little better than spam and I reckon if it results in fraud, then those self-same companies should be the ones to suffer the loss and inconvenience – not us.

  • Julian Taylor

    I can not emphasise strongly enough how vital it is in this day and age to register with an organisation like MPS or TPS and the ilk. I don’t get spam mail, spam telephone calls or even spam faxes any longer after getting a listing with them.

  • RAB

    If you steal my identity your are damn near certain to get arrested.
    See you all in a week.

  • Midwesterner: Citibank and Wachovia let you opt out of paper correspondence, restricting all of your dealings with them to the Internet and the phone. There are other banks who provide this option as well.

    Jonathan, I am not in the CC business, but I have a few stories to tell as well. The first one begins when one fine morning I have a UPS track unloading a computer, a monitor, a printer and a scanner at my door. I call my husband at work and ask him whether he ordered a new computer. “No, we have a fairly new computer, have you forgotten?”. A year later the police found a guy who’s hobby was rummaging through the local paper-recycling bins. A simple family man, who started with phone sex, progressed to cigars, and then decided that he, unlike us, was in need of a new computer.

  • I meant “There probably are other banks who provide this option as well”.

  • Midwesterner

    Alisa, thanks for the suggestion. Since one of the offenders is Citi, I will definitely pursue that option. I’ll check and see if the others have something similar.

    Now all I need is to stop all the absurd ‘you are pre-approved’ offers that make opening a new line of credit in my name just one (faked) signature away.

  • We’ve caught guys in my building, early in the morning, going through the trash outside doors, figure it’s for this very reason.

    I’ve had fraud on my card over the years, within a week of using it at an international airport’s duty free shop, or after using it in the bar of a very fancy hotel in Knightsbridge, those were the most recent.

    Nothing is ever sent to the billing address, that helps. But the banks don’t do anything except wait for the voucher for 30 days, when they could be tracking things from the second they find out. Hmmm

  • 1327

    Halifax VISA have an annoying habit of sending unsolicited
    credit card cheques in the post. All the thief has to do is get hold of them fill in a sum of money and within minutes they can have whatever they want on a credit card.

  • Julian Taylor

    As I did say, the card had never been used before and wasn’t used again. The moment I saw the man run back to swipe the card under his counter I knew something was very wrong and contacted the card company straight away – who didn’t act upon it until 5 days had passed, by which time the card had already been cloned and used in Canada. Fortunately I have witnesses to what their waiter did.

    According to our local police they had all merchant services withdrawn from them after a series of similar complaints, albeit under a previous management, some time ago and customers had to pay cash. When they reopened their newly refurbished restaurant they gave assurances that it wasn’t the same management – a great shame since it actually is quite a good restaurant and very reasonably priced … obviously so long as one pays cash.

  • Robert Alderson

    Don’t forget that the Blair government have an interest in building up the size of the “Identity Theft” problem to increase support for ID cards as a solution. They come up with numbers that include things like benefit fraud.

  • Checking your credit card accounts on the internet should be reducing the scope and frequency of ID theft. I used to go over my account every thirty days, when the paper came. Nowadays I look at all my accounts at least every other day. If anything suspicious were to happen, I’d know it right away. And at least in the US maximum liability is really low if you catch problems right away. That has changed for the better. Debit cards are still a problem, though. And I do wish Wachovia would stop sending those credit card checks in the mail. Not that there’s enough headroom in my cc accounts so I should worry much!

  • Yes Blair is trying to build a case for ID Cards based on Identity Theft, every other reason having been disproved. But The Scotsman has an article that says that if anything ID Cards will make the chances of Identity Theft worse as there is only one place where things need be manipulated.

  • llamas

    I work in this industry. The careless attitudes of many people to sensitive personal data, and their concomitant lack of interest in protecting it from evil-doers, would boggle the mind.

    But it’s not just the consumers. For example, effective, low-cost anti-cloning technology for c****t cards has been available for more than a decade – yet none of the major banks or issuers show the slightest interest in it. Until the market provides a positive incentive to use it, it will languish on the shelves of the companies that slaved to develop it.

    Similarly, modern checks can be loaded with all sorts of security devices which are impossible to replicate and easy to use – but as long as consumers prefer to buy their checks from a blow-in insert in their Sunday paper, or from a website in WhoKNowsWhereIstan – what do you expect? Apparently, pictures of puppies or their favourite Nascar driver are much more important than elementary security precautions.

    The banks and major c****t-card issuers are plenty responsible, no question – but fraud and identity theft would not be so very easy if consumers did not respond so well to those choices which make it easy. They don’t send you those pre-printed line-of-c****t cheks in the mail because they think you won’t use them – they send them because lots of people do. If people got a little more careful, and weaned themselves from their taste for convenience above all else, and stopped responding to those things – they’d stop sending them, believe me.



  • Duncan Sutherland

    Excellent point!

    Vote with your wallet! What’s more libertarian/capitalist than that?