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Bennett Aron
Bennett Aron
Comedy » Comedian Blogs

My Identity Theft Nightmare

Comedian Bennett Arron reveals how having his identity stolen by a fraudster led him to be arrested in a dawn raid by the CID...

What is Identity Theft? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s basically when your personal details are used fraudulently to open accounts or obtain documentation in your name. This could result in debts being accumulated, for which you would initially be accountable – until you prove yourself innocent.

ID theft is quite commonplace now, but when it happened to me several years ago, no one really knew much about the crime. I had to convince the Police, as well as all the companies to which I allegedly owed money, that I was me, and not the person pretending to be me.

Someone had used my name to ring up thousands of pounds worth of bad debts. This gave me a bad credit-rating which meant I couldn’t get a mortgage, couldn’t get a credit card and couldn’t open a bank account. I couldn’t even join my local gym as they wouldn’t accept my direct debit – so it wasn’t all bad news. As a result of this crime I eventually became homeless and penniless and had to move in with my parents.

A few years after this happened, as some kind of cathartic exercise, I wrote a comedy show about the experience which I took to the Edinburgh Festival. The show was very well received and as a result of I was asked to be the guest speaker at International Fraud Conventions in Italy and Poland and was also asked to make a documentary on the subject for Channel 4.

In the programme I proved how easy a crime ID theft is to carry out. For example; I opened a stall in a Shopping Centre and told people that I could stop them from having their identity stolen if they gave me their credit card numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords and PIN’s. And they did!

Also in the programme I went through someone’s rubbish at 1 o’clock in the morning and discovered that they had thrown away bank statements and other personal information. With this, I opened accounts in their name.

The other thing I did in the programme was to attempt to steal the identity of the
then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke. I easily obtained a Birth Certificate, online, in his name, and then applied for, and received, a Driving Licence in his name – with my photo on it.

I wrote to him and told him what I had done in the hope of having a meeting. However, although a meeting with the Home Office was arranged, it was subsequently cancelled and it was not rescheduled.

A month before the programme was due to air, I was arrested by CID in a dawn raid at my home. Even though I explained my reasons for what I had done and told them that surely a real criminal wouldn’t film their activities and write to the ‘victim’ telling them what they’d done, I was still taken to a Police Station and put into a cell.
The documentary eventually went out and the Press generally liked it. It was Pick of the Day in the Telegraph and The Guardian and The TV Times gave it four stars and called it “Fascinating and slightly disturbing”.

After the programme had aired, I received over 4000 hits to my website where I had put some tips and information to help people avoid having their own identity stolen and where they could apply for a Free Credit Report.

When I looked into my own identity theft, I discovered that the thief (I think the term Fraudster sounds too exotic) had been running up debts in my name for the previous year and a half. He hadn’t accessed my accounts, nor had he cloned my cards. He had simply used my personal information to set up new accounts.

So what can we do to prevent this from happening?

At a recent corporate event I was asked what people could do to stop them from having their identities stolen. I replied “nothing.” Needless to say, that didn’t go down too well. Of course there are preventative measures; shredding documents, not giving out information unless you are positive of the source, keeping your PIN safe, having regular credit reports etc. And in the vast majority of cases these will suffice. Yet, as I have proven several times, if I really wanted to steal someone’s identity I probably could. However, as I have already been arrested for it once, I am now looking into alternative hobbies.

Of course, with the advent of social websites like Facebook, Fraudsters now have a new way of gaining personal information because as well as letting their families and friends know what they’re up to or what mood they’re in, people who use these sites have a tendency to add their address, date of birth and information as to when they are going away on holiday!

But it’s not only down to the individual. Banks, shops, mobile phone companies etc should be more stringent in their screening processes. It’s too easy just to take on new clients and deal with any consequences of fraud later.

Having your identity stolen is not a victimless crime. It’s far from it. And having a bad credit rating can cause endless problems.

But don’t take my word for it, ask Bennett Arron….


Bennett Arron is an award-winning writer and stand-up comedian as well as a speaker on the subject of Identity Theft.

For more information visit www.bennettarron.com

Wednesday, 25th May 2011

Tags:   Comedy Blog  /  Bennett Aron  /  identity  /  identity theft
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