Victims of Fraud Survey
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Victims of fraud case studies
After working a 12 hour day, checking her post was not high on Sirisha Kodakandla’s list of priorities, which is why she didn’t notice post was going missing. Since she lived in rented accommodation with a shared hall, it allowed someone to intercept and try to open credit accounts in her name, using her date of birth, work number, work address and other details stolen from the mail.
“When I was studying for exams in 2007, I got my credit report and found that 32 credit applications had been made in my name but none of them had been successful, so I thought nothing of it,” says Sirisha, 27, a care home officer. “It was by chance, after seeing an advert, I signed up for CreditExpert in January 2008.”
A few weeks after signing up, more false applications started appearing on her report and Sirisha started to receive e-mail alerts from CreditExpert.co.uk flagging significant changes to her credit report. There were multiple credit card and store card applications, a catalogue and even mobile phones. She contacted Experian’s Victims of Fraud team which contacted all the lenders who received false applications, to have them removed from her report. She now has a flag on her account telling lenders to contact her and ask for a password when they check her report as part of their credit application process.
“I am really glad I joined CreditExpert,” says Sirisha. “If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have known about these applications until it was too late and I could have lost thousands. Instead, I’ve lost nothing.”
Amy Gibbons checks all her statements regularly, shreds sensitive documents and joined Experian’s CreditExpert service when she was due to remortgage, so she could see whether her credit report needed improving before she made any applications.
So when several statements for one of her credit cards went astray, she swung into action.
“I kept it for emergencies and it should have had a zero balance, which is probably why it initially slipped my mind,” says Amy, a 29-year-old quality assurance manager from Spalding, Lincolnshire. “I went online to find the electronic statements and couldn’t believe it when I saw a couple of cash transfers, one for £500 and the other for £2,300.
“I called the card issuer, which claimed I’d transferred the money to my bank account – but it was a bank I’ve never used. Then I asked where the statements had gone, and was told I’d changed my address from Spalding to Dagenham, Essex. I’ve never even been to Dagenham. They said it looked as if I was the victim of identity fraud and cancelled the card.”
The question was how anyone had managed to take over the password-protected account. It turned out that, if a cardholder forgot his or her password, they could also get online access by using their date of birth and mother’s maiden name.
“The card fraud department said it looked as if someone had got hold of my full name and address, and then bought a copy of my birth certificate, which would have contained enough information to take over my account,” says Amy.
The fraud department also advised her to check her credit report in case the criminals had done anything else. Luckily, the card fraud was the only illicit activity on record.
Her credit report is now flagged so that new applications for credit are not processed until Amy has been contacted by the lender.
Computer programmer Andy Hindmarch didn’t owe a penny to anyone back in June 2009, when he decided to buy a new car. But when he tried to get credit to finance the vehicle, he was turned down.
“I was stunned,” says Andy, 32. “I’d never been refused credit and hadn’t even applied for any for years.”
He decided to find out why and looked at his credit report via CreditExpert.co.uk. There he found an address linked to his own, hundreds of miles away from his home in Newcastle upon Tyne.
“Somehow, criminals had got hold of some of my details back in 2006 and had used an address very similar to mine but in a different city. They’d run up a credit card debt of around £22,000, including interest, over three years. I was therefore seen as a bad risk,” he says.
Andy called the credit card company, only to find the card and its debts had been sold. “The new company passed the buck back to the old one. I was getting nowhere.”
He called Experian’s Victims of Fraud team. “They were brilliant,” says Andy. “I got a crime report number from the police and Experian did the rest. The linked address was removed from my credit report and with it, the criminals’ debt.”
The process took ten weeks and Andy now checks his credit report regularly and shreds all post showing his name and address before throwing it away.
When Robin Storer moved from the North West to Swindon, Wiltshire in February 2009, he gave his new address to the utility companies, financial providers and friends, rather than redirect his mail.
“I received a letter from a credit card company,” says Robin, a civil servant. “It asked me to contact them urgently and I was suspicious. I’d heard of phishing letters and thought this could be one of them, so I got my credit report, just to check.”
His credit report revealed a catalogue of fraud. Not only was the original credit card listed, but there were six other unfamiliar accounts, including a further credit card, store cards and catalogue accounts with outstanding debt totalling £10,000. And there had been 17 searches of his report, relating to more applications for credit.
“Initially, I went into shock,” says Robin, 44. “I didn’t know what to do. Somebody had taken out all this credit pretending to be me. The record showed that, at first, they’d made regular payments and then slipped behind until they defaulted.”
Robin called Experian’s CreditExpert service for advice. He was advised to write to each creditor, explain what had happened and enclose proof that he had moved. CreditExpert also contacted the creditors.
“Within a few weeks, it had all been sorted out and the items were removed from my credit report, thanks to the advice I received from CreditExpert,” says Robin, who is planning to move house again later this year. “This time I will have all my post redirected and I now keep an eye on my credit report.”