Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Overkill

Credit cardsIdentity theft is a real problem.

I don't think anybody would argue with that. While the papers might not thrum daily to the groan of "he stole my house, bank balance, Facebook account and Peugot 106" horror stories it is accepted that having one's identity stolen (or at the very least borrowed for nefarious purposes) is a very real risk in the modern age.

We all take steps against it, I am sure. Shredding personal documents before putting them in the rubbish. Not storing our passwords and account names on our computers. Not writing down our credit card pin numbers (yeah right - who doesn't do that?), etc.

And talking of credit cards, we cut them up, don't we? When they expire or the bank issues us a new one because they've been taken over / taken over someone else and have changed their name we snap those horrid bits of plastic in half and maliciously quarter them with a sharp pair of scissors. Maybe even cut them in half again just to be sure.

But the question is: how small do you cut them up?

I only ask because I suspect I go over the top. It is a curious foible of mine to reduce old credit cards down to something akin to the molecular level. I recognize there is no logic to this endeavour because any letters or documents that I receive from the bank I merely rip in half and bin without a second thought. If someone wanted to rifle through my rubbish (avoiding the dirty nappies - good luck) and piece them back together and ascertain my account numbers, it wouldn't be too difficult.

But credit cards trigger a primitive sense of paranoia in me.

Not only do I reduce them to confetti but I also have to distribute them over as wide an area as possible. The splintered components cannot all go into the same bin just in case there is a madman out there (and he would have to be mad - and very good at jigsaws) who will spend months locating all the pieces and then somehow gluing them back together again to gain access to my bank account information.

To neutralize this risk I put approximately half into the bin at home and then very cannily distribute the other half into the many street bins that line my morning walk to work. It would be a labour of Hercules to recover all the pieces and put them back together again. Sometimes I even mix the pieces of different cards just to confuse the would be identity thief even more. I like messing with their heads, you see. I like to think that the UK's asylums are all full of would-be identity crims who have all been driven mad by their attempts to reconfigure my old credit cards.

You can laugh if you want to. Call me nutty and neurotic if you have a mind. But nobody - and I mean nobody - is ever going to steal my identity by nicking one of my old credit cards.

I can guarantee it.


25 comments:

Rol said...

Ah - so that's where you've put the other bits! Thanks for the tip off. I'll be investigating the bins along your route to work more thoroughly in future.

Steve said...

Rol: so you're the guy with the old army overcoat and trousers held up with string! For the last time: no I haven't got any spare change!

French Fancy said...

I think you are wise to do this. I hate to make this about me me me (but I will) I have a horror story about id theft...

Years ago my bag was nicked at work - some opportunist went through our office block and pinched quite a few. I had driving licence, credit cards - all the usual plus some flat sale documents. All disappeared into thin air. I did the usual - after crying a lot (I loved that bag) - and gradually forgot about it.

About nine months later I got a warning letter from Ratners that I had been defaulting on the payment for my emerald ring. WTF???

I of course got in touch with Ratners who put me on to their legal department. Lots of worry and consults with boss and a phone call to his brother the solicitor.

Later that week the Hilton UK chain sent me a warning letter about not paying my hotel bills and my account was now running about 8k overdrawn. WTF????

I got in touch with my bank manager (they were still in the branches in those days and I'd had the same one for about 15 years at that point). They contacted the legal department at both places saying I was an upstanding citizen etc - all the usual.

Obviously I was very upset and got in touch also with the crime desk at the central London police station that had handled the office break in. They suggested a handwriting test - obviously the fraudster had filled in application forms for the Hilton and Ratners accounts. This was then done and my handwriting and the bogus woman's forms were sent away to be analysed.

Of course it all worked out in my favour and about a year later a private detective got in touch with me to say that he had been following this woman around the country - her and her eight other identities, one of which was mine.
She was now behind bars.

So no, I don't think cutting up id into minute pieces and stashing them around the country is far fetched at all.

(I've also had my card cloned twice - once in New York and once in London)

Steve said...

FF: OK now I am thinking that cutting them up into pieces smaller than an gnat's arse isn't enough. Maybe I ought to buy a blowtorch and melt them down? Or a nuclear reactor? Hold on, am checking eBay right now...

Seriously, I did have to cancel one of my cards 2 years ago because some scrote started running up £50 mobile bills on it. God knows how. My mobile network provider investigated but weren't very helpful. I ended up having to pay though I, of course, cancelled the card.

French Fancy said...

What a shame you had to pay. With the card cloning - a New Yorker went on the spend in the Apple store at the same time that I was on my Virgin flight back home. I proved that it could not have been me (and I had so many photocopies of things to send to all and sundry).

Likewise with the London theft - I knew when it had been done. We'd stayed at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel in Baker Street and when I paid she took the card away 'because of a problem with the machine'. It was the only time I used that card whilst in London and I gave a full ID to police and of course copied the credit card company on all of this ( yes, lots more paper used up here).

I didn't have to pay for anything untoward but it is a bloody pain and of course the shock when you open a statement and see thousands of $ or £ attributed to you cannot be minimised.

Steve said...

FF: alas, proving that I did not make those calls when they seemed to originate from my phone was impossible and a bit scary. Hence my paranoia about credit cards! You can never be too paranoid!

Clippy Mat said...

this is why i spend to the max on my credit card and keep my bank account in OD at all times.
it's just my way of thwarting would be criminals who want to rip me off.
;-)

The Dotterel said...

Blimey, if the post itself didn't make me paranoid enough then the comments... phew! I'm going to hide on a small Scottish island living the good life!

Steve said...

The Dotterel: there's nothing safer or more secure than bartering with vegetables and livestock... (or so my financial advisor tells me).

Mark said...

Have you thought of burning them instead?

Suburbia said...

Hee hee!!

Well actually I shouldn't laugh as I also do something similar with anything with my address n it! So many bins to choose from too!

;)

Never Tool8 - number 9 is fine, thanks said...

If I woz Joe Bloggs - Odd say,

"Steel yourselves; coz you bin nicked way back wendytent.
And we got the copyright an'all, teehee.. and notwithstanding, tipis too... Guns and gents, playboys, nooks and grannies, and all the lawyers, and all the kings men, queens, queers, midgets, thingeymebobs and whatnots, fools and horses, the ins, the outs, the means, the ends, the sequals, the averages, the winnings, the Ritz, the flophouses, piecharts and paragraphs, the excruciatingly longwinded rigmaroles and on and on, Amon.

So, we'll sue you later

Jaws fatefully

The Sucker"

Thankfully I'm not Joe Bloggs but I am a sucker for overkill.

Selina Kingston said...

You've made me laugh (again) because I do that thing of cutting up my credit cards into really teeny weeny pieces and then spreading them around different bins. I thought I was alone in my madness but I'm so delighted that you're here too!!

lunarossa said...

I've been victim of cc cloning twice and I got my money back from the bank but I was shocked anyway. At the time it was clear that the cloning came from Internet sites and the only ones I used to buy from were amazon, ryanair, jet2 and tesco. Pretty shocking, isn't it? A police officer from the frode squad told me that although those sites should be safe, it's enough that one of the employees is not. So I now shred everything, am very careful when I pay online, etc. but I still think it's not enough. Ciao. A.

missbehaving said...

I'm lmao because I'm the same, can never be too careful, I've been known to sort of shave thin slices off the cards with a craft knife.
Now if I can just find a way to stop leaving my purse lying around.

FF, all awful scenarios.

Owen said...

Hey Steve, I'll come visit you in the asylume soon... or perhaps they will give us adjacent rooms...


And it is not just cutting up the physical card which is important, but also making damn sure the bank has actually cancelled the old card number with Visa or whomever...

I got a new card about two years ago, and turned the old one back in to the bank, and watched the bank employee cut it up... but they forgot to cancel the card number. About three months later my bank statement in the mail showed a 1200 euro charge for airline tickets on a major US airline. As this seemed highly suspicious to me, not only the credit card fraud, but the fact that it was for airline tickets, could be terrorist related, I contacted the local police, the bank, Interpol, the FBI, the US Consulate, and the airline's security department. I guess they all thought I was nuts, as I never heard a word back from any of them... fortunately no airplanes fell out of the sky in the following weeks, and the bank refunded my money, which had been debited by Visa already. But I had to write the the head of the bank before they finally admitted it was their fault.

What a zoo of a world we live in, with nasty little crooks running around all over... and it doesn't seem to be getting better imho...
;-)

Steve said...

mark: I hadn't until now... I'm considering investing in a blowtorch.

Suburbia: there's nothing like spreading it around the neighbourhood, I say.

Selina: I'm amazed more of us don't meet on the street in this "secret" endeavour!

Nevertool8: I wish I knew what you meant.

Lunarossa: the more comments I read the more shocked I am at how common this type of thing is. Perhaps it's not overkill afterall?

MissBehaving: a craft knife, eh? Now you're giving me ideas!

Owen: It is a complete zoo. At least when the Somalian pirates come to rob you you can see them coming!

French Fancy said...

missbehavin' - they were indeed awful scenarios.

Owen - and I thought I was a thorough person - I take my hat off to you, sir.

(Steve - you can have your page back now)

Steve said...

FF: it's OK - I was only passing through...

The Sagittarian said...

Oh I do that, and to be safe you can perhaps send bits of your card to other countries as well? Luckily I haven't had a theft of that sort (altho' some weirdo broke into my house once and all he took was a pair of black lacy knickers, and I am assuming he wasn't up to identity theft...hmmm, perhaps i was too hasty??) BUT anyway, that in itself was creepy wnough let alone all the other stuff. Nope, you ain't nuts yet Steve!

Steve said...

Amanda: hmm... I never thought about scattering the pieces abroad. Maybe I could pursuade my neighbours to take segments in their hand luggage when they go on holiday?

ChickPea said...

What a fine blog to find - Thank You - I shall be back.
(I hadn't thought of recruiting public bins to assist disposal of the several cc bits - Thank You !)

Steve said...

ChickPea: you're most welcome. Hope you'll come back soon!

absurdoldbird said...

Mmm... I used to do this with everything that had any personal details on it. Then I got RSI in my cutting hand (as I was too paranoid about trusting the job to a shredder) and stopped. Now things still get shredded but in a less paranoid way. You're right about worrying though about Identity Theft. I know someone who suffered through this and it was not pretty at all.
Bummer.

Steve said...

Absurdoldbird: I was amazed after writing this at how many fellow bloggers have suffered at the hands of identity thieves. My paranoia, it seems, is justified and has moved up to warp 10.