The Great British Summer! Children at home. Children nagging. How many times does someone nag you for something before you give in and give them what they want? Or are talked into buying something you do not really want, just so that they stop asking, and you get a quiet life? Or more ominously, you are approached for something you might want, but would not have asked, had you not been contacted in the first place?
An unprecedented, unsolicited plague has recently struck England with a mass attack from overseas, with a bombardment of telephone calls, text messages, and emails?
Have you recently had an accident? Have you been mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (‘PPI’)?
When you receive telephone calls, letters, text messages, or emails about this, do you ever wonder how ‘they’ know your personal position?
On a balance of probabilities, someone who is approached, perhaps many people, have been mid-sold Payment Protection Insurance, or have suffered a personal injury in the past 3 years.
If ‘they’ target millions of people, like a fisherman trawling a large net across the ocean floor, he is bound to catch something.
What about the more complex offer? Do you want to buy land? What about once in a lifetime shares? How about equity release loans?
Have your family grown up and moved away, and you have some extra cash, savings, which if handled correctly will grow to such an amount, that you will be able to give a significant amount to each of your loved ones, rather than a small amount?
Perhaps you are a risk-taker, and like the thrill of a new investment? After all, who could hoodwink you? A person of your intelligence, wisdom, and experience?
What about higher net worth individuals? Or someone with ability to take out a loan, or release some of the value in their property?
This takes a more specialist type of fisherman. Perhaps a Shark Hunter. Seeking a better quality catch, they will not proverbially cast their net so widely, as the PPI or Personal Injury ‘fisherman’.
A target marketer will use various information available such as Company Directorships, value of turnover, profit, share holdings, number of Directorships (all available publicly from Companies House).
From there, they may then know your home address, and date of birth. This will allow a target marketer, to establish your age, and of course your address.
The target marketer, ok let us now reveal their true nature. No. Not a fisherman. Not a Shark hunter, but a fraudster out to take your money, will then search from Her Majesty’s Land Registry, the size and value of your house. Do you have a large mortgage? Charges on your property? Do you own your house? All this information is readily available at the local Land Registry. There are many websites who equally will let you try and value your property. To the fraudster, these are obviously useful tools to establish the estimated value of your house.
How long have you lived in your house? A long time? Are you likely to be financially comfortable?
What about cars on your drive? Do you own them? What are their values? Again, easily available information from public sources will reveal whether there is finance outstanding on a vehicle, and it’s likely value.
What is your spending pattern like? Companies like Experian, and Equifax, will tell you your credit rating. They will tell you what credit cards and loans you have. Whether you are a good payer or have defaulted. The value of the loans, and any overdraft you have. Are you a risk-taker? Are you a responsible payer? Do you have any County Court Judgments? All supposedly confidential information to you unless you authorise someone to be able to access this information, in which case they will know. The problem is that if the information is out there, to a fraudster it will be obtainable. Very little is confidential in modern times.
Do you throw away and separate your paper from your rubbish? What do you throw away?
Garbology is the study of analysing what is in your bin. What lifestyle you lead, your spending patterns, what you eat, bills, Bank statements, credit card statements, mobile and house phone bills. All this information is gold dust to a fraudster. With such information, ‘they’ build up a profile of you, what you are worth, your spending habits, what you want, and what you desire.
Even a seemingly innocent utility bill can be used by a fraudster to present to a Bank or lending institution to steal your identity and gain credit for them, posing as you.
1. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is;
2. If you weren’t looking for an offer from a stranger, treat the communication with some suspicion;
3. Throw away newspapers, and other general paperwork, but be more careful with information that placed into the wrong hands, can be used against you. Be paranoid on this matter. Better safe, than sorry;
4. On websites, be careful not to give too much information. For example, do you really ave to give your date of birth? Think about who else may use this information against you.
If you are being contacted by strangers either by text message, a phone call, or otherwise, and you are suspicious, you should contact the Police by dialling 101, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Professor Rosen is a Solicitor-Advocate, Partner, and head of Business Litigation at Darlingtons Solicitors. He is a Certified Fraud Examiner with the ACFE, a working member of the Fraud Advisory Panel, a member of the Society of Legal Scholars and a visiting Associate Professor of Law at Brunel University specialising in civil and criminal fraud.
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