Another Fine Mess

So the government has just lost the personal details for 25 million UK citizens who are claiming child benefit. Unbelievable.

“The missing information contains details of all Child Benefit recipients: records for 25 million individuals and 7.25 million families. “

That quote was from Alistair Darling and it’s the first time I’ve heard gasps from the House of Commons. Grand theatre or genuine shock it matters not – this was an amazing statement to be making from a government who are hell bent on forcing through an ID card system that is costly, hard to justify and one wonders just how secure it will be. Type of data missing…only:

  • National insurance number
  • Name, address and birth date
  • Partner’s details
  • Names, sex and age of children
  • Bank/savings account details

Enough to rip off your identity, have a good old stab at you security details on many online accounts and websites and generally ruin a lot of peoples life’s if the details fall into the wrong hands. Biggest shock of all is that this data was sent via TNT on a couple of password protected disks. What?!? It was sent on the 18th of October but senior management didn’t know it was missing until November 8th and the Chancellor on November 10th. Why has it taken so long for this to become public? That is an absolute disgrace.

It’s for the delay and also the Northern Rock fiasco which could cost taxpayers a lot of money that Darling really should step down. He’s a lame duck chancellor and he looks defeated every time he speaks in parliament now. In some ways it’s a shame as I thought he was fairly competent but not now. In fact when I hear his name I just think Blackadder.

Darling: Good luck, Blackadder.
Blackadder: Why, thank you, Darling. And what’s your big job here today? Straightening chairs?

Robbed x2

A small’ish update to my Robbed post. Firstly thanks for the comments. I’m sure what’s happened to me is something that’s happened to loads of other folk or will happen to others in the future…doesn’t make me any happier dealing with this shit.

Yesterday it emerged that the swines have my Egg credit card details too. An e-mail from EBay alerted me to another account being created using my card details. 10 mins after confirming it wasn’t me EBay had closed the other account and confirmed my card details used. A quick call to Egg and that card was closed down. Only expense was for £1.50 which I’m assuming is the Paypal setup payment. Thankfully they didn’t rip me off for anymore or anyone else through some false EBay bidding. That was enough for me to get the police in. Very impressed with EBay and their speed in alerting me and taking action – excellent service.

So I’ve passed on all the details to them, closed down all my accounts to stop any threat of more issues and I also heard today that two people were arrested in connection with a very similar fraud in Partick. Hopefully it’s the bard’s that did me but I don’t know for sure yet.

Still not clear if it’s an e-crime or someone taking details from my wallet and/or elsewhere. If it’s e-crime I’d love to assume it’s from my Windows days and that I’m on Mac and hence nothing to fear. However I’m currently backing up data. Tomorrow I’ll reformat and re-install. I’ll then get everything I need back on then begin the task of changing all my passwords, both offline and online. For those critical online accounts I’ll also be adopting a strong password (which I had already) and changing them every two weeks or so. Pain in the proverbial’s but once bitten etc etc. It will give me some piece of mind at least.


That’s how it feels and technically I guess I have been. I logged into my bank account Saturday and found my account had been emptied by a cheque issued the previous day. A cheque that I’d never written, a cheque that I’d never issued and a cheque that was still blank within my cheque book. I could feel the blood drain away from my face, my stomach emptying and then my hands shaking. This was a LOT of money (well for me anyway) and it was gone.

I phoned my bank and found out two things. Branches don’t open on Saturday and the fraudulent claims department doesn’t work weekends. If your going to defraud a bank do it on a Friday. Wait until Monday…and don’t worry was the advice over the phone!

So Monday came and I got on the phone again. The cheque was processed at the Byres road branch and they definitely had one of my cheques so it was of to the branch to get to the bottom of where my money had gone. I turned up, said my piece, showed them my cheque book with supposedly issued cheque still in the book and they went to investigate. 20 mins later they came back with ‘my’ cheque.

The cheque had my account number and sort code and also my branch details. It also had my name but this was slightly different than my actual account name. It also wasn’t my signature and also was signed with my middle initial and surname, something I never do. Worse was the cheque was faded compared to the originals in my book and also you could see old ink underneath the bank branch details. It was clearly a counterfeit cheque.

Thankfully the branch seem to be accepting of this too. They’ve closed my account, set-up a new one and been very helpful with sorting out access to money over the coming days and moving all the direct debits. But then they should be, no? They are the ones that have been defrauded, not me. Yet it’s me that doesn’t have my money refunded – that has to wait for the fraud investigation team which could take a few weeks. While this morning I felt OK with this as the day has moved on it has irritated me more and more. I’m also getting advice from some that I should involve the police rather than let the bank carry out an internal investigation but I’m not sure what if anything this would achieve apart from wasting their valuable time. I guess I would look at this option as a last resort if the bank started getting difficult.

I’m also feeling…vulnerable. How did someone get my details? Has there been mail intercepted? Is my internet access compromised? Has someone used an old cheque that I’ve issued to help mock up the counterfeit? It happened in Glasgow – could it be someone I know? How did they know how much to write the cheque for – coincidence or someone within the bank (somewhere) providing information? Is it someone I’ve used the account card recently? Paranoia but I really feel compromised by this. I’m usually very careful, shredding all mail with name’s and also old bank details. My internet security I thought was always pretty good although I don’t think anyone can be 100% secure or sure that they aren’t compromised in some way.

I also feel that there were suspicious eye’s at the bank today and that’s why the fraud team will investigate and may take some time. Again it could be in my head but that’s how I feel and it will be difficult to shake this.

So, lessons learned? Be vigilant. Cheque your accounts regularly and make sure you can account for every transaction. If you use internet banking then make sure your machine is clear of spyware and I would also suggest using a strong password that you change regularly, even once a month to reduce the risk of it being compromised. I would also advise against accessing your account at work as you never know what your system administrator is tracking. Get a shredder and use it! If in a restaurant the waiter wants to take your card away ask him to bring the machine to you and if that isn’t possible insist that you go with the card – cloning of cards is on the increase.

Finally, and probably applies to me most. Never get arrogant about protecting your identity or accounts. I always thought I did well in protecting these things (and that why I’m writing all this on a public blog – doh!) but today has been a real wake up call. Fraud happens and there’s no telling who will be next.