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The Man from UNCLE

I was over at our National Hi-tech Crime Unit at their secret building in Docklands this week. It rather reminds me of the classic “Man from UNCLE” series but I think the comparison was lost on their receptionist, who isn’t old enough to remember the characters of Napoleon Solo and Mr Waverly at their secret building behind a Chinese laundry in Brooklyn in the sixties.

One of the discussions I had surrounded identity theft and how bad it’s getting. Even with lots of news and education about “phishing”, the stealing of identities and financial information online or through social engineering, people continue to be conned in huge numbers.

Here’s one popular way of stealing your details, now that more people are shredding their bills and letters. You get a call from your doctor’s surgery about the appointment you’ve just missed. “I haven’t got an appointment”, you say. “But you are Mr Smith”, says the voice on the other end of the phone. “Yes”, you reply but I’m not ill.”

“You are the Mr Smith of 1 Sussex Avenue aren’t you”, says the voice. “Yes”, you reply. “Can I have your date of birth and national insurance number to confirm this”, says the voice. At which point if you give them the details, they’ve got you and can then trawl through other free online databases to add to the information, even as far as getting your mother’s maiden name, from a genealogy database.

So without giving away any secrets let’s just say that everyone reading this should be a great deal more careful about their personal information than they are already. And never never use the same password and pin for email and online bank accounts. I could tell you more but then they would have to shoot me!

Just be careful, there’s a whole criminal industry out there devoted to stealing as much information about you as possible and sometimes, your complete identity. In the States, it’s now so bad, that people have had to declare themselves legally dead to avoid the bailiffs! In the UK, we now have hundreds if not thousands of people in jail or walking around quite freely with false identities as recent cases in the press have revealed.

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