Broken Ovens & Stolen Identities

A broken oven can be a real nuisance, but a stolen identity can be a life ruiner.

Jade Baker got in touch last week to explain how a faulty oven filament led to her almost losing everything she had.

“There’s never a good time to have an oven break down on you, but slap bang in the middle of the week is probably the worst time. I’d spent three years living in this bungalow in North Wales with my Mother and this was just one more thing in a long list of things that had gone wrong starting with my Mum slipping a disc and ending with my identity being stolen. It’s one of those things that you just don’t think will happen to you, it’s not something that I’d ever really heard of, except when watching one of those silly CSI program but it happened to me nonetheless…”

Identity fraud is an increasing problem in the United Kingdom, all age groups are targeted and criminals do not discriminate when it comes to social class or background. In other words, it doesn’t matter how rich you are, where you come from, or what you do for a living – identity thieves will happily take what you have. Over the last few years identity fraud rates have risen dramatically, they now make up of 56% of all frauds. Awareness has been raised by a number of government supported campaigns, but these all too often focus on online fraudsters, without mentioning the threat that con artists and crooks pose in person.

“My first mistake was not going to an official supplier of Britannia cooker accessories and spares, my second was leaving my Mother to welcome a stranger into our home to steal both of our identities. I had no idea that it could be done so easily!”

After ordering her spare parts through a 3rd party site Jade was not told which delivery service would be handling the delivery of her parcel. She left her Mother for the day to go to work simply telling her that a man would be arriving at some point during the day to deliver a package – you could say that it was a stroke of bad luck that a rather industrious conman was making the rounds of her neighbourhood at the same time…

“My Mum told me how kind and generous the man had been, chatting to her on the doorstep and handing her the receipt slip for the package (which ended up being completely false – obviously), it wasn’t until she mentioned making him a cup of tea that a prick of panic set in. I knew she was lonely, but I’d never expect her to abandon all common sense and let a stranger into the house. As soon as she mentioned this I started making an inventory of all the personal files and forms of identity that a fraudster might be looking for and sure enough I saw that bank statements had been snatched from the dresser, along with passports and even a handful of bills.”

“I got in touch with the police straight away and was able to talk to the right people to protect my identity, but had I not twigged sooner we both would have been out on the street. Ironically, the oven part arrived the next day…”

Bike Thieves & Gumtree Sellers

Not-so-hot wheels.

Around 400,000 bikes are stolen every year in the UK, which works out at roughly one bike every 90 seconds…

“Not many people consider ‘professional bike thief’ as a proper criminal occupation, but for 3 years or so I made a pretty decent living out of it…that is, until I was caught.”

Darryl Metcalfe grew up in what could generously be described as a ‘grim northern town‘, a long forgotten corner of England that had seemingly been forgotten by the rest of the world and left to fester in its own retrograde microcosm. A blanket of concrete and cut-price High Street stores with a few faded pubs was all this town had to offer its occupants.

The prospect of ‘getting out’ and escaping the insufferable gloom of this bleak urban existence was less a dream and more of a one-in-a-million chance, a probability that was only rivalled by those of the jackpots on the back of scratchcards that were plastered to the cracked pavements along with limited edition chewing gum flavours attempting to curry favour for England’s Euro ’96 campaign.

“I hated that place. My school was awful, the teachers hated me and I hated them. I knew I wasn’t smart, but they’d tagged me as ‘the wrong sort’ from day one. I never had a chance of getting an education – not the traditional kind that is…’

Darryl lived in 2-bed flat with his Mother. Like many hard-working Mums of the time she didn’t have much time to spend with her son, having to work two jobs throughout the week in order to get enough money together feed to herself and her boy. She felt that as long as she was getting her boy to school and putting food on the table she was doing just fine, to his credit Darryl always tried his best to hide his nefarious actions from his Mum, even when ‘hiding’ meant lying.

“It was a lad in detention who told me about it first. He told me about how he was rolling in money, showed me a wad of cash and told me how easy it was to get it. A good kid would have seen that money and thought better, but by that point in time I’d already given up on being a kid, I wanted money, I wanted a car and I wanted to get out of my town and this looked like the best option to me.”

From 2007-2010 Daryll became the most industrious bike thief in his town. He started small, breaking into sheds with a crowbar at night to take bikes from family homes. He’d then take apart the bikes, respray them and sell them on to online sellers. By randomising his strategy, Darryl was able to leave very little trace of his identity; he used an anonymous burner to contact the bike sellers and soon started ‘upping his game’ – this is when he got into a little hot water.

“The bike that did for me was labelled with a UV marker, registered with the National Bicycle Database. The seller I sold the bike to reported it as stolen and gave the police a description that matched CCTV images of me entering the area. It was only a matter of time before I was caught. After doing my time I was lucky enough to get work in a bike shop, maintaining and fitting out bikes which I’m in charge of legally verifying…it’s a strange old world!”