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Internet Identity Theft

National Identity Fraud Prevention Week or Was it "Identity Theft for Dummies?" - page 3

  By Vincent Woodall

Only very recently, in February this year, two identity fraudsters got confidential information about comedian Harry Hill, 41, from a bank clerk and used it to set up an internet account in his name. They then siphoned cash from the comedian's genuine Halifax accounts into the bogus one. In one month a series of large sums were transferred out of the online account to various beneficiaries and stolen. Hill, whose account was in his real name of Dr Matthew Hall, discovered the theft when he visited his Halifax branch in Battersea, South London, to query the transactions. The stand-up comic was one of five wealthy clients targeted. The unnamed conmen got their confidential details from Sharmane Dillon, 23, a Halifax customer adviser. Dillon claimed the men, who were not caught, threatened her with violence. They sent her the names of chosen victims by text message and she searched the computer database for dates of births and answers to security questions.

Prosecutor Andrew Evans told Harrow crown court that one conman then posed as Hill to alter the bank's records of his address. He said: "It was changed to somewhere in Woolwich. A code was then issued to that address which enabled fraudulent transactions." Almost £500,000 was taken from the customers. About £150,000 was recovered. The bank refunded the rest.

Dillon, who worked in Wembley, admitted passing on customer details but denied plotting fraud. She denied the charge of conspiracy to defraud saying she did not profit from the crime, and only took part because the conmen had threatened to hurt her family and slit her throat if she did not help.

However a jury at Harrow Crown Court found the 23-year-old guilty by a majority verdict. The fraudsters themselves were not caught. Judge Susan Tapping told her: ‘It would be very wrong if I didn't warn you that a custodial sentence is very much on the cards for this offence.’ Four other accounts were targeted in the sting, which netted more than £578,000 in 2004; although all the victims have got their money back. She was released on bail and will be sentenced next month. Last year another comedian, Ricky Gervais, was also a victim of identity fraud when a picture taken from the cover of a DVD was used in a stolen passport.

So where does this leave you? If you can’t even trust the staff at your bank it doesn’t leave too much hope. MPs recently voted to bring in voluntary ID cards. Presumably criminals will choose to opt out given the choice. But apart from biometric ID cards what can you do to protect your identity? If you are not rich or famous, and thus specifically targeted as Ricky Gervais and Harry Hill were, you should stand a better chance of protecting yourself by, at the very least, investing in a decent shredder, of at least security level 3 or 4, and shred every bit of correspondence that you throw in your dustbin, absolutely everything and anything that has confidential information on it, even if it is only your name and address.

AB Technology (London) Ltd supply the widest range of paper shredders from no less than 9 major manufacturers including desktop CD shredders. By shredding often and shredding well, you will go a long way to protecting yourself against opportunistic identity thieves who might be looking to raid your dustbin for useful personal details.

Vincent Woodall is the sales and marketing manager for AB Technology (London) Ltd. ABT supply paper, CD and Multimedia and cardboard shredders, well over 300 models from 9 major manufacturers. They offer the widest choice of quality shredders available from one supplier in the UK.

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