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How to steal your identity

blogged a few times about identity theft and its issues, but it only
came home to me how easy such theft can be last week.  My challenge was
related to my ageing in-laws who needed to close down a remortgage with
their bank but, being rather old and hard-of-hearing, wanted me to call
on their behalf.  The remortgage was worth £50,000 ($100,000) so no
small beans, and I rang the bank.  Here’s how the conversation went: 

Bank Customer Services Representative (CSR): “Good morning, ABC Bank.  Can I have your name please?”

Chris: “Yes, it’s Chris Skinner.  I’m calling on behalf of my father-in-law regarding mortgage account number 7628455.”

Bank CSR: “Sorry sir, but I can only talk to the account holder.”

Chris: “But he’s rather hard of hearing and cannot use the telephone.”

Bank CSR: “In which case, you’ll just have to send us a letter signed by him.”

So, rather frustrated, the conversation ended there.

Undaunted, I thought I’d try a different tack and rang back.

Bank CSR: “Good morning, ABC Bank.  Can I have your name please?”

Chris: “Yes, it’s Ralph Davidson.”

Bank CSR: “Do you have an account with us sir?”

Chris: “Yes.  Account number 7628455.”

Bank CSR: “In which case I just need to do a few security checks.  What is your date of birth?”

Chris: “8th August 1928.”

Bank CSR: “And your address?”

Chris: “19 Juniper Close, Woodford, Essex, IG4 8HG.”

Bank CSR: “And when did you open your account with us?”

Chris: “17th March 1997.”

Bank CSR: “OK, Mr. Davidson.  How can I help you?”

the second conversation purely involved having a letter in front of me
that showed the information required.  The point here is that I know
identity theft is an issue for the banks, and the bank checks are
reasonable, but my bank would normally check some information that
isn’t obviously written on a piece of paper such as a PIN number or
mother’s maiden name.  This gives a little more security than a name,
birth date and address, which are all obvious. 

For example,
I had to make a similar call to my father-in-law’s credit card firm the
same day, and the same conversations were followed, e.g. I can’t talk
to you if you say you’re Chris but I can if you say you’re Ralph.
Here’s how it ended:

Chris: “I’m calling to activate my credit card.”

Credit Card CSR: “Yes, Mr. Davidson.  What’s the number of the card concerned?”

Chris: “5132 744890 19200.”

Credit Card CSR:
“OK, I’m just activating the card for you.  Whilst that’s taking place
Mr. Davidson, are you aware that identity theft is an increasing
problem with one in four people in Britain a victim.  We offer a
comprehensive identity theft insurance plan that ensures you are
protected from this issue.  Would this be of interest to you?”

Chris: “Ooooohhhhh yes!”

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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