Although Identity Theft is quite commonplace now, when it happened to me several years ago, no one really knew much about the crime. In fact, I later discovered that I was the first major victim of the crime in the UK.
At the time, I had to convince the Police – as well as all the companies to which I allegedly owed money – that I was me, and not the person pretending to be me.
Someone had used my name to ring up thousands of pounds worth of bad debts. This gave me a bad credit-rating which meant I couldn’t get a mortgage, couldn’t get a credit card and couldn’t open a bank account.
As a result of this crime, I became penniless and homeless. It took me over two years to clear my name and I am still suffering the consequences.
A few years after this happened, as some kind of cathartic exercise, I wrote a comedy show about the experience (as comedians do). As a result of the show I was asked to be the guest speaker at Security/IT/Fraud Conventions around the world. I was also asked by Channel 4 if I would like to make a documentary on the subject.
In the documentary, How To Steal An Identity, I proved how easy a crime ID theft is to carry out by firstly going through someone’s rubbish at 1 o’clock in the morning and then setting up a stall in a Shopping Centre and telling people that I could stop them from having their identity stolen if they gave me their personal details. The documentary can be seen here.
The other thing I did in the programme was to steal the identity of the Home Secretary!
With the advent of social websites like Facebook, fraudsters now have a new way of gaining personal information because, as well as letting their families and friends know what they’re up to or what mood they’re in, people have a tendency to add their address, date of birth and information as to where and when they are going away on holiday!
But it’s not only down to the individual; banks, shops, mobile phone companies etc should not just be taking on new customers without having the correct infrastructure in place. I have campaigned about this to the government – although I’m probably not in their best books – as well as campaigning to make companies more stringent in their screening processes. It’s too easy just to take on new clients and deal with any consequences of fraud later.
Having your identity stolen is not a victimless crime. It’s far from it. And having a bad credit rating can cause endless problems.
But don’t take my word for it, ask Bennett Arron….
– Comedian & Identity Theft Expert
Bennett will be speaking at our Finance and IT Conference on 13/14 July – book your place now on our website! https://chcymru.org.uk/en/events/view/2017-finance-and-it-conference1
Bennett’s new book; Heard The One About Identity Theft? is available here.