Identity Theft

Recently a friend of mine had her bag stolen at a pub on Portobello Road. I feel guilty about this, as I had only ventured to the area because I wanted to experience as many cocktails as possible in uber-trendy bar Trailer Happiness.

I’m a real sucker for drinks with more than 3 ingredients, and had heard about the place through the Internet. The drinks, I have to say, were exceptionally good, but also exceptionally expensive and, after a couple of hours, we repaired to a more cost effective option over the road.

Here we continued to drink as if it was going out of fashion and, having become anesthetised by the higher prices over the road, felt like they were now giving away the drinks almost for free.

We were relaxed, let our guard down, and then it happened, the bag was stolen...

A girl’s bag quite often, in my experience, contains virtually everything you’d need for a do-it-yourself identity theft kit. Not just credit cards, cheque books etc, but also old statements with the address on them, house keys, car keys, mobile phone and, probably somewhere, details of birthday and mother’s maiden name.

A blokes wallet, by comparison, will usually contain one or two credit cards (the ones currently actually working), a receipt or two, and perhaps a £10 note. It simply doesn’t have the bandwidth for anything else, making it harder to get all the necessary details for a successful impersonation.

To catch blokes out, you’d probably have to do something very sneaky like going through the bin. I think someone went through my bin once as they then saw the dire straits I was in and posted a tenner through my door.

Identity theft has had a lot press recently: The Home Office now has a dedicated web site talking about the growing problem, where it declaims that your identity is under threat from all comers: not just the bag snatchers and the bin men, but also from the phishers, pharmers and shoulder surfers who are all after finding out more about you and your PIN.

According to the Home Office, some form of identity theft affects 100,000 people a year in the UK. This is enough people to fill a mid-sized town.

Identity theft is a growing problem, but my worry is that the more forms of identification you have, the easier it is to be impersonated. ID cards are meant to make us more secure against this, but could you imagine what would happen should your identity be successfully stolen, resulting in you being identified as the perpetrator rather than the victim.