Jan 7, 2015

Identity Theft - Are You Protecting Yourself?

As we all know, the advent of the digital age has made communication almost instantaneous.  Contact is now global at the touch of a button and information on pretty much anything is freely available.  The biggest drawback however is that with the advent of such unrivalled power, checks on the sources of information can be overlooked.  What appears to be genuine and from a reliable source can be easily masked. There have been various reports of institutions 'losing' people's individual data; bank accounts, account passwords and even computer login details.  The ability to pretend that you are somebody else, sometimes on a mass scale, is more prevalent than ever.  It is so important to ensure that you keep your details safe.  But what do you do if you find somebody impersonating you? Enter Martin McAloon.  For those of us of a certain vintage, Martin will need no introduction as younger brother of Paddy and integral part of 80s pop legends Prefab Sprout.  In mid-November Martin was contacted by a well-known fan and journalist.  He had received an email from what appeared to be Martin McAloon asking for help identifying and supplying back catalogue and rare recordings of Prefab Sprout. Eventually becoming suspicious, the fan checked with Martin to see if the account was genuine "I was taken aback when I was contacted, that anyone could be bothered to impersonate me and the lengths they'd gone to, was one thing, but primarily at the prospect of other damage that could be caused in my name", said Martin.  "The impostor had gone to a lot of trouble to masquerade as me including setting up an email account using my data. Looking at the email and its content, I can see how most people would have been fooled", said Martin. Martin contacted Niall Head-Rapson at McDaniel & Co who told Martin to get in touch with PIPCU (Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit) based in the city of London. "On the face of it", said Mr Head-Rapson, "This was a case of seeking to procure copyright material by deception and just the sort of incident that PIPCU was designed for" Within a day of having the fraud notified to him Martin had contacted the police and they are dealing with the incident.  However the scenario is not a rare one.  You must remain vigilant to ensure that those in society who seek to gain by pretending to be others should not prosper.  The consequences are and can be far reaching.  Ask George. George fancied a change of scene and put his house on the market.  He had a viewing which appeared to have gone well. However nothing transpired and the house remained for sale. Imagine George's shock 6 months later when he received a letter from Santander saying that his house was about to be repossessed.  What had transpired was that the viewer had adopted another man's identity and had arranged for the house to be sold to him in collusion with a solicitor.  The bogus buyer had absconded with the sale proceeds and had left the country.  The first the man whose identity was stolen knew about it was when he was arrested at work. It took George 18 months to sort the matter out  It took George that long to "persuade" the relevant agencies that he hadn't in fact sold his house, was blissfully ignorant of the sale and that he was happy where he was and continuing to pay the mortgage.  Not only was it the time that it took but the stress for him and his family.  The thieves have been tracked down to Hong Kong and George now has to make himself available for a 14 Day trial to attend the former colony and take further time out of his business and family life. "It was an horrendous time" said George. "At first no one believed me.  The bank would not talk to me and it was only after it dawned upon them that they were part of an identity fraud did they start to help.  It was very stressful; there were proceedings on foot to repossess the house and I had a wife and children to protect.  Even now I may need to travel half way around the world to be a witness in trial for being a victim of an identity theft" So the message is clear.  Be vigilant with your data; the consequences can be dire.

Posted by: in: Companies, Digital/Tech, News

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