Identity theft is one of the most alarming threats of modern life, and now a case at Birmingham Magistrates Court has revealed another worrying twist to this crime.
A beautician was hounded by x-rated calls, after a former friend assumed her identity on an adult website.
X-ratedAccording to the Birmingham Mail, Nikki Bains, a 24-year-old beautician from Ladywood, Birmingham was bemused and horrified when she started receiving up to 40 x-rated calls and texts a day from men wanting to meet up with her.
She told the newspaper: "At first I was angry, then I became scared. It was a malicious thing to do to a friend – I think she has a problem. First I thought it was an ex-boyfriend and blamed him. I also confronted Laurie about it, but she denied everything. I'm still jumpy every time the phone goes."
She contacted police, and they discovered that Laurie Bridges, a 37-year-old disability claimant from Kingsheath in Birmingham, was the culprit. The Mirror reported that the former friend of Bains had fallen out with one of Bains' former boyfriends, so decided to post an advert for Bains on two adult dating websites, Adult Friend Finder and Badoo.
Bridges used Bains' photograph, taken from her laptop, along with her mobile phone number and a message claiming she was wearing lingerie.
Bridges admitted harassment and was given a 12-month community order, and ordered to pay £100 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
VulnerableIt's an unpleasant case, and one that shows how easy it is for someone to assume your identity, and turn your life upside down, whether that's emotionally or financially.
According to Action Fraud, 7% of the UK population have been victims of identity fraud, which is more than 4 million people. Typically the fraudsters are after your money, with the average individual losing £1,190. CIFAS adds that the number of identity theft cases continues to rise, and warns that we must take better precautions.
In the real world it means keeping a close eye on documents, shredding bank statements and bills before putting them in the bin, and reporting a lost driving licence or passport missing as soon as it goes astray
It's also vital to know when post such as bank statements, bills or cheque books are due, so you know if they fail to arrive. And finally it's important to go through bank statements carefully to make sure you recognise every transaction.
Online, it's just as important to take precautions. Take the time to verify emails from organisations asking for any details, and err on the side of caution. Never give away personal details, including passwords or account numbers online. Even if you think you recognise the organisation asking for those details, bear in mind that they may not be who they say they are.
Also be very careful about sharing information on social media. Even if you limit what your share to friends, it's worth highlighting that many people have hundreds of so-called friends, and even those who mean you no ill now can change their mind later, and suddenly they will know everything they need in order to abuse your online identity.
If you want to share your personal details, save them for your best friends in the real world. The person you bumped into at a party three years ago is never a good person to tell your birthday, your address, who you bank with and your mother's maiden name.