Identity Theft in Streatham
Just when all the news is of the next big crime target being cyrbecrime, along comes a low-tech, old-school way in which local people are being targeted, and it’s causing some of them huge headaches sorting things out.
We were tipped off about a string of identity thefts in shared accommodation by a local fellow, Robert Stroud. It seems their apartment block off Valley Road has been targeted by ID thieves who then move on and attack elsewhere. Given that as much as half of Streatham is rented accommodation, and that a significant percentage of tenants move on elsewhere after six months, this is a matter of great concern.
The scam is very simple. Post is collected from the letterbox in common areas of eg. late Victorian / early Edwardian buildings that have been converted into flats. Robert has told us this included impersonating residents to delivery agents, including to banks where the thieves intercepted bank cardsin the post, cancelled bank cards, and intercepted other financial information (HMRC documents, payslips, etc); using these and newly ordered stolen bank cards to set up new current accounts, credit cards, store cards, and loans in the victims’ names. He reports he has information it has happened to house/premises owners as well as residents in some instances.
They found fraudulent transactions with Barclays, British Airways, American Express, Lloyds Bank, Sainsbury's, Argos, Ikano (Ikea's bank), amongst others, although most of the banks/providers have been very helpful in getting the issue resolved.
The residents have involved the local police and Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) and their advice is to be vigilant; to keep financial post to a minimum (go paperless onine!); to keep different passwords for every single internet account/login; to sign up to free monthly credit reports from Noddle (www.noddle.co.uk) or the new, free MoneySavingExpert.com Credit Club. A further option the recommend is to sign up for the extra anti-fraud protection offered by Cifas (www.cifas.org.uk).
The Residential Landlords Association has a list of recommendations for tenants with common areas for post, or students in shared occupancy:
If you are away for more than a day or so, ask someone you can trust to pick up your mail or use the Royal Mail Keepsafe service
If you find mail belonging to someone else, if you know them deliver it personally or otherwise clearly mark the envelope ‘Not known at this address’ and put it in a post box or give it to a postman
If you fail to receive regular bills or statements, check they have been sent. If possible, ask them to be sent by email
Collect credit cards, debit cards or cheque books from your bank rather than having them delivered.