Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Identity theft for real

A colleague of mine was surprised last Friday when a brand new Iphone 4 (worth about £700) was delivered to his house by DHL.  Later in the day there was a phone call from someone claiming to be from DHL, informing him that they had delivered it in error and that they would send a representative to collect it.  This 'representative' turned out to be a man in a white 1999 registered van with no form of identification to link him with DHL.  (Yes the registration number has been recorded.)

My colleague should be congratulated on spotting a potential scam and he refused to hand the package over.  Instead he called the mobile phone company, O2, who were unhelpful.  Apparently he had to be able to answer his security question - that being the one that had clearly been set up for him by someone else, using his bank account details.  He has not had any dealing with O2 for several years.

Similarly his bank(s) have all been unhelpful and rather uninterested in the event.  Admittedly none of them have yet seen any transactions, but one might have hoped that they would be keen to spot potential fraud and take appropriate actions.  The police have also taken the details and said that they would send an officer around to collect the phone.  My colleague (I think reasonably) has declined to hand it over.   What would be the point when it has never been in the possession of the fraudsters.

The best help he has received so far is from DHL who apparently have to deal with this kind of thing on a regular basis.  At least they were able to reassure him that his case is not without precedent.  That must be some relief to him at least.

It is assumed that this has been perpetrated by someone with access to my colleague's address and bank account details, that they would have collected the phone and then sold the stolen goods.  Not an especially clever scam!  But a worrying case of identity theft!  I could easily imagine many people falling for it - even if as intelligent as my readers. Watch out for it. 

This is not one of those stories that is 'nth hand' with an unattributable source, although of course as soon as I tell anyone else it becomes like that.  Just beware. 



If he does not hand it over to the police (against receipt and a copy of a report they should draw up confirming why it is in their possession), then the company supplying it can attempt to charge him for it.

By handing it over, he then makes it essential for the company who supplied it to deal directly with the police and he avoids the hassle.

Also, the police should be *cough* strongly encouraged to contact their local cybercrime unit (because credit card / ID theft falls under that), which collects information and analyses it to see if there are links to other, similar crimes and modus operandi.

The problem with local cops, however, is that they don't always know to do this so it gets filed away and no further action is taken.


Oh, and until there is a transaction, the banks can do nothing. In order to report suspected fraud to the police, they have to have a justifiably contested transaction. Any useful documentation from the victim (such as the police receipt)will mean the transaction is blocked more easily and your friend is reimbursed.

Banks are, normally, obliged to report fraud but it is also possible for the police to contact them first. In any case, your friend is not going to help anyone by just keeping the phone, but simply adding one more complication to it all.