Just a few years ago if someone wanted to steal your identity they'd have to get their hands dirty by rummaging around in your dustbin (or trash can, to my non-English speaking friends). But these days you don't have to trawl though soiled tissues or cat vomit in order defraud someone of their life savings - thanks to the Internet, you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
I too have been the victim of Identity Fraud - a crime so heinous that I gave it two capital letters.
On August 2nd 2007 I just happened to glance at my online bank details only to find three highly suspicious transactions. Two payments to 'Tesco Mobile Top-Up' at £30 each, and a payment to Vodafone for £50 (fraudulent transactions amassing £110 to those of you rubbish at maths (or math - to my non-English speaking friends).
The alarm bells went off when I saw the Tesco Mobile transactions as I don't have a Tesco mobile. I immediately yelled 'What? What? What?' like a madman as it slowly dawned on me that some wretched sod had dipped his or her grubby little thieving filthy paw into my pink piggy bank.
My bank cannot be faulted in their initial response to my call, as this was on the Thursday evening and I had received my new card along with the claim forms by the Saturday morning. But hello, there's more... another letter arrived, stating that my card was recently refused a transaction and informing me that had I not been aware of this then I should contact the fraud office... which I did with great swiftness.
It transpires that on July 31st in the year of our Lord 2007, some nasty, thieving cockroach attempted to lift almost £850 from my account in one fell swoop.
So how do these venomous leeches go about such an act of pure evil? Well, as Toyah Wilcox might say "It's a mystery" (minus the lisp). I could have been the victim of a random attack, my card may have been cloned by an evil cashier in a petrol station or a 'modified' hole-in-the-wall at a bank... But maybe it was far more sinister...
This may be hard to fathom, but scum is on the prowl in social networking sites... I've not bothered to do any research for this blog, but my guess is that ID Fraud has soared since the advent of MySpace and Faceboo. All these low-lifers need are key details like your full name (my screen name may not help matters here) your date of birth and possibly your home address - which is probably easier to obtain than you may think.
I imagine these people also thrive on eBay, where they purchase very small packages, pay by cheque and Bob's your uncle... They have the home address and more than likely a daytime telephone number.
Surprise, surprise... The MySpace bulletins are also a breeding ground for criminals. You've all seen the daft bulletins asking you everything from what you had for breakfast to your favourite stuffed toy and what colour underwear you're wearing. It wouldn't take an evil genius long to piece together your life history over a short space of time.
I'm just warning my friends to be on their guard - be careful about revealing so much of your life to total strangers... I have 'friends' on MySpace that I've never even spoken to - 'friends' who could be criminal masterminds for all I know. You'll note I've not mentioned the name of my bank, my first stuffed toy or my mother's maiden name. Do I look stupid to you?
Returning to the matter of the £850... It was basically refused because my account was seriously overdrawn at the time.
Yes, I'm afraid if it was money they were after, the tea-leaves chose the wrong man to mess with. Have you seen the car I drive? John Major was still in power when it was first purchased - I kid ye not.