Category: Life Lessons

Adventures with Identity Theft – Prevention, and what to do if the worst happens

Click here for the last part of the story that prompted this post.

So, if you’re wondering why I’m posting details about Identity Theft, I’d suggest reading my prior posts on my own experience with having my identity stolen.

So, in terms of prevention – what can you do? please bear in mind that this information is intended for a UK audience – I have no idea how these things work in different countries.

Surprisingly, not as much as you’d think. The person who stole my identity had key pieces of information – my full name, date of birth, place of birth, full address and my bank account number and sort code. As to how they got these? Either some hackery went on somewhere, or someone who knows me very well attempted to rip me off. The level of information they had in terms of security questions points towards someone who knows me, or has access to someone who knows me. But, I guess I will never know the truth!

Still, you can be somewhat proactive.

  • Check your credit report regularly. You can get a statuary credit report for free. This will show you any searches done against your credit. There are even mobile apps these days that will let you know when your credit report has changed! Here are the relevant links:
  • Experian will allow you to add a password to your credit file, adding an extra layer of security to jump through if you ever apply for any type of credit. You will have to sign up for your free credit report through them directly.
  • Shred all documents that contain personal information before disposing of them.
  • Don’t share personal information online. Keep your accounts (facebook, etc) private where possible.
  • Be careful with any online account – set up two factor authentication, use different passwords, etc. Be aware that someone getting access to these can get all kinds of personal information just by looking at what details you filled your accounts with.
  • Treat the answers to security questions as passwords – never set up an easy to find answer!
  • Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket – I know this may not be feasible for everyone, but if you can have a ‘parachute’ account or credit card with another financial entity than your main bank, you will still have access to some funds if they opt to freeze your account for an investigation. In this case, having my credit card really helped me to continue with my every day life.

With that said, bear in mind that I did/do all the above (bar the password on my credit file), and I was still done (although the security question bullet did prevent the fraudster actually accessing their ill-gotten gains). Sometimes, even doing all you can is not enough.

If you have been done:

  • Sign up with CIFAS for protective registration.
  • Check with Royal Mail that your mail has not been redirected.
  • Get in touch with the above mentioned credit agencies, and flag anything that you don’t recognise.
  • Get in touch with Action Fraud UK, if only to get a crime reference number for something they claim is not actually a crime.
  • Change all your passwords to all the things.
  • Change any information that was compromised, if you can.
  • Check all the above mentioned sites for victim resources, should anything new pop up in the future.

And well, I guess that’s all you can really do. Bear in mind that the process is not as smooth for the victim as it really should be. You will be looked at as if you compromised the information yourself by some agencies. Until you prove your identity, you will sometimes feel like you’re being treated like a criminal. Faceless entities like an Account Review team will hold god like power over your finances, and there will be nothing you can do about it.

So, do what you can to protect your information. Check everything regularly – and stay safe out there!

Adventures with Identity Theft – At the Bank!

Click here for part 1.

So, in the first part of this cautionary tale, I had found out that someone had applied for a loan in my name and had it deposited in my bank account. I was on holiday, right at the beginning of a bank holiday weekend.

I’d been in touch with HSBC, who told me that they could tell me nothing – I had to go to a branch in person with some identification as soon as possible.

We start off the day with me having very little sleep, and waiting for it to be time for the local bank to open. Since it was the ‘go home’ day of the holiday, I was able to keep busy with packing up things. When the time arrived, the Bloke kindly drive me to the local town so I could sort out things at the bank.

Since we got there at the opening time, I was able to be immediately seen. I had to go through all my security questions (as expected), show my ID (my driving license is always with me), and then discuss what had happened.

The day before (the day I had noticed the £10,000), someone had phoned the bank, and attempted to move the £10,000 away somewhere. The bank wouldn’t tell me where though.

Now at this point, the main thing going through my head is – either this person did their homework to feel confident enough to get into my telephone banking, or, more worryingly – it was someone close to me. When I consider that the only people who have ever been given my actual bank details are close family, companies with whom I am setting up a direct debit, or employers, I still feel incredibly uneasy about this.

It’s also important to note that I am a rather paranoid person – I don’t think security questions in their ‘honest’ form are secure at all. Some information is easily found about a person, after all. And if it’s someone who knows you … well. As a result, all of my life, I have always used fake answers to my security questions. Think in answer to ‘What is your favourite colour’, and instead of ‘Yellow’, the answer is ‘Banana’.

It was this paranoia that stopped the impersonator getting that £10,000. They failed on the security questions part. They had all the other information correct. The HSBC security protocols did their job, and they shut down phone access to my account – hence why I had to turn up in person. In my head, I was singing HSBC’s praises!

While I was in the branch, I got the security on my account updated – things like updating all the answers to my security questions just in case, setting up my voice as my password, and correcting all out of date information for their records. I was also reassured that HSBC would get the £10,000 sent back to Hitachi using their internal processes. Fabulous!

I was in the branch for over an hour. With this all accomplished, I was ready to go home (hopefully before 5pm, in the hope that some places would still be manning their phones on a Saturday). I was very eager to shut down as much of the fraud as possible, and get everything resolved.

As luck would have it though, I only got home in time to make a phone call to Experian after checking through my updated credit report from there.

There were a number of ‘soft’ credit searches (which don’t impact credit score), and a hard one for Hitachi Capital Finance. The nice gentleman at Experian was surprised I had already been in touch with Hitachi, and also recommended I sign up for CIFAS – He let me know that he would start the leg work to get the bad stuff removed from my credit file. In addition, he let me know that I can set up a password on my credit file itself. Awesome!

All that was left to do at this point was to get in touch with the Police to report the problem. I was advised that I should do this online through So, I reported the whole thing, and then sat back to wait. By this point, it was after 5pm on a Saturday, and all the other things I had left to do wouldn’t be possible until Tuesday, as everywhere would be closed for the next 2 days for the bank holiday weekend.

I was feeling slightly better at this point, as I felt that things were beginning to get tidied up. I let work know that I wouldn’t be able to come in on the Tuesday, as I knew I’d be spending a lot of time on the phone trying to resolve things.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. The next part of this story was particularly rage inducing for me. In fact, it still is. But we’ll get to that in the next post.

Adventures with Identity Theft – I was done!

Last year, I had my identity stolen. I figured I would share the story about it here, with the aim of possibly helping out anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation. It’s somewhat lengthy, so I’ll break it out into a few posts.

I was on holiday with the bloke and his family when it happened. Me being me, I was checking my online banking in the lull between doing holiday things, and found something somewhat worrying – I had an additional £10,000 in my bank account. It had been deposited the day before. To add to this fun, this was on a Friday before a bank holiday weekend. I wouldn’t be home until Saturday evening.

Now, normally, an additional surprise £10,000 would be something to celebrate, right? Not in this case. I knew that I wasn’t expecting such a windfall, no one in my immediate circle would be sending me that kind of cash, and I certainly hadn’t applied for anything that would give me that kind of cash.

I dug a bit deeper into my online banking, and found that a direct debit was set up to Hitachi Capital Finance for a loan. I was pretty concerned at this point. I attempted to talk to the online folks at HSBC to ask more questions, and they couldn’t tell me anything – in fact, I was to go to a bank as soon as possible with my identification. Being on holiday meant I wouldn’t be able to go to my local branch – and the closest branch to me wouldn’t take appointments and was currently closed. I would have to go to a bank the next day – before heading home – to try and resolve things.

I phoned Hitachi, and had a conversation with a rather nice chap there. All I was armed with was a reference number (from the transfer), and the loan amount. I did manage to get through to their fraud department, and uncovered a few things.

The man on the phone was surprised at how quickly the loan amount had been deposited into my account. The loan had been approved immediately, as my credit score is excellent. This also meant that minimum identity checks had happened, because my credit score was that good. If anything, the whole loan had been fast tracked!

The nice man also let me know what information had been provided, and I found it really unsettling. The impersonator had my full name, date of birth, my place of birth, my full address and my full bank account number and sort code. The only things that were incorrect were my job title, email address and phone number.

We then got into how I was going to give Hitachi their money back. I was reluctant to do a bank transfer at this point, as I knew something had gone down – I decided to go direct through HSBC, but also that I had to go to a bank in person to prove that I was me at this point. As far as plans go, I figured it was a pretty sound one!

The final thing I could do, given that everyone else had likely gone home for the day, was to register with CIFAS for protective registration. This isn’t free, by the way – it’s £25 for two years.

I made a list of all the things I needed to do as soon as possible:

  • First off, find out what had happened with the bank. That would be first thing the next day.
  • Go through all my credit reports with a fine tooth comb, to see if anything else had been done in my name. This would be done when I was back home.
  • With all information in hand, report the matter to the police.
  • Contact all the credit agencies to get anything fraudulent removed from my files.
  • Check that that the impersonator had not put a redirect on my mail.

Seems like a fairly small list. Bear in mind that I had a few things against me – it was a bank holiday weekend, and this was all going down on a Friday evening, after 5pm. I had time in to morning to go to the bank and try to sort things out, but they didn’t open until 10am. And then I had a really long drive back home (about 5ish hours). Bank holiday meant that everywhere would be closed on the Sunday as well as the Monday.

I was fuming, and powerless to do anything because everyone working had gone home for their long weekend. I had been done, and at that moment in time, there was nothing else I could do about it. The joy was sucked from my holiday, and as you can imagine, I got little sleep that night.

I’ll go over what went down at the bank in the next post. This is getting long.


All the projects!

Howdy all!

It has been a loooong while.

I guess my hiatus was down to running out of things I wanted to talk about – or could in the public domain of the world wide web.

I have been keeping busy, and I’m pretty sure that will give me plenty of fodder to ramble on about!

My current thing is projects – I occasionally have phases of feeling ‘hyper productive’, where I have an idea about millions of things I want to do, then attempt to do them all in one big go and inevitably burn myself out on the all the ideas.

Take this week, for example.

I’ve decided that I’m bored of the things I’m cooking. I’m stuck in a rut of cooking all the same things because it’s easy and I can do it with my eyes closed. I need to be better at watching what I’m eating, I need to be doing more exercise (I keep falling off that wagon, current excuse is I’ve hurt my back).

This resulted in me deciding to be a bit more Mediterranean in my eating habits. I found a few great recipes online. Sensible start, right?

Kind of.

I did a big shop in the week, and then I blew my entire Saturday in the kitchen, cooking lots of different things. I didn’t sit down last night until after I emptied my dishwasher.

At this point, I’ve pretty much made all the meals I need for the next week and a half (possibly more), if I don’t mind eating the same things over the course of a few days. My fridge and freezer are full of prepared food. Which is kind of an accomplishment, but I also find myself feeling somewhat deflated. This kind of mass production is not going to be sustainable for a lifestyle change here.

My major problem here is I become somewhat obsessive in whatever project I’ve latched on to, at the expense of other things in my life. I am currently feeling somewhat guilty that my current ‘thing’ (cooking different things) took away from other things I could have used 50% of my weekend for (see note above about how I get all the ideas at once):

  • Getting into that mobile application development that has been bouncing around in my head for quite a while. App ideas = 3. So far.
  • Writing that windows app for my spending spreadsheet, to automate my own records keeping progress.
  • Making a start on that book idea that’s squirreling around my brain.
  • Teaching myself some of these new fangled (and some older) programming languages that are gaining popularity in the industry.
  • Getting back into sketching.
  • Really learning how to use my graphics tablet.
  • Get back into blogging.

While teaching myself new things is always fun, I have to acknowledge that this also takes away from my more ‘real life’ things that should be taking more of my attention:

  • Sorting out my wardrobe – so many old outfits I will never wear again need a new home.
  • Spending actual quality time with the bloke and his littles.
  • Making that choice between getting an additional book case, or re-homing some of my old much loved books.
  • Playing all the games on my ‘to play’ pile.
  • Reading all the books on the never shrinking ‘to read’ pile. My ‘to read’ pile seems to work on a one out, one (occasionally two) in process.

At the moment, I am raring to go on all of my project ideas in one go. I’ve even made myself a trello board, with sub-lists that go into more detail on all the little steps (thanks, Agile and Scrum, for giving me this fun way to visualise all the things I want to do. I’ve ended up planning out all of my projects – on my phone – and probably lost a couple of evenings to that).

I know I will end up burning out on all the above if I don’t curb my enthusiasm. All these projects have a way of consuming all my mental energy and time. Which typically results in weeks of me vegetating on my sofa and watching all the things on CrunchyRoll when my brain short circuits. Already this morning, I’m downloading up-to-date code editors for various platforms (I’m in fact writing this as I’m waiting for downloads and installations to complete). I still have things on my ‘to prep and cook’ list for today.

I guess this post is more of a stream on consciousness than anything else. It may also provide some enlightenment on my absence from this platform for such a long time – I got distracted by all the shiny ideas. The only conclusion I can come to is that I need to have a word with myself – focus on one thing at a time, and try to finish the job without burning out on it.

Argos update the Third.

Yup, two blog posts in one day!

So, I just received this from the wonderful folks at Argos.


So, in a nutshell – they offered to reimburse me for my day of  annual leave, after they rescheduled my order. And they are now retracting that offer because their rescheduling my delivery means that I should have anticipated taking a day of annual leave.

I guess they realised that an hour of my time is in fact quite expensive.

So, I’ve emailed them. I’ll also be calling.

Dear Argos,

Please see the attached letter I have just received through the post.

This is unacceptable – I arranged for delivery on Saturday the 19th through your website. I originally arranged this for a Saturday because I didn’t want to have to use annual leave for this. It was then *you* who called and rescheduled for the 21st. Me, just wanting the bed to arrive in time for family to visit, reluctantly accepted that I would have to book annual leave for this.

I strongly suggest you review this. You are attempting to claim that that I would have had to anticipate taking a day off for this? That is completely incorrect. Thankfully, I have all previous automated emails, receipts, etc that will back this.

It’s bad enough that I have had such a terrible experience with your company – for you to then offer reimbursement earlier in this email chain, then attempt to tell me that I should have anticipated taking a day off after you rescheduled the delivery day is quite frankly unacceptable.

Sort it out.

Just for extra fun, I’m organised enough that I have kept all prior emails to this. Here’s a screen shot of the email I received on the 5th (when I actually made this order):
But no. I should have anticipated having to take a day of annual leave when I deliberately arranged delivery for a weekend when I don’t have to work.
One angry phone call and call back later, apparently it is not in their policy to reimburse for the first day off taken, and the person who told me this in the first place is apparently in trouble!
I find this pretty unacceptable. I’ve already sent details of this shenanigans to BBC Watchdog. Trading Standards next.
EDIT The Second
I’ve sent another email.

Hello again Argos.

Your below email is incorrect. After receiving it, I briefly panicked, thinking that I would be unavailable to hand over the items for collection. Thankfully, my manager is understanding and allowed me to work the rest of the day from home.

I did have cause to phone you today though, after you decided that my time is apparently worth too much for you to give the reimbursement for loss of earnings that you initially offered. I was told that the bed was indeed booked in for collection today, but you were unable to give me any times. So, I was transferred to your collections department, who let me know that the collection was not in fact booked in for today.

Thanks for wasting more of my time.

I have now been told it is booked in for collection on Monday 5th December between 12 and 6.

At this point, I am not holding my breath. Your service is absolutely shambolic. This is now a second day when I have been told to expect some kind of service, and I have had to chase things up with you when said service fails to transpire.

If I have to arrange delivery to your warehouse myself, I’ll be sending you the bill. I want this bed out of my house, and I want my refund.

I have already submitted this whole farce to BBC Watchdog and Trading Standards.

Frustration! The House Edition.

Once upon a time, I had an idea in my head that buying a house would be a somewhat long, but overall easy enough process.

At this point in the house buying process, I’m still good to buy my house. Yeay! However, it’s not going to be quite as quick as I anticipated.

Turns out I’m in a chain. *Someone* in this chain (not the people selling to me, thankfully) has been playing silly buggers. Now, the people selling to me are a young family, with another small one due in October. They need to upsize. The house they are buying is in a street where a similar property sold for a lot more than what they are trying to buy their own future home for. Turns out the person selling to *them* realised this after agreeing a price. Cue shenanigans. From what I’ve heard from the estate agents, he proceeded to try and ask for more money, had various inquiries that further stalled the whole process, and was generally being a pain in the backside to the people selling their house to me.

From being told only a few days ago that I should be able to exchange contracts on Friday, I had a call this week to let me know that there was a delay – the dude playing silly buggers has now pulled out entirely, stating an unspecified ‘family issue’.

The people selling to me are back to square one – house hunting. They are understandably gutted. They’ve been hoping to get everything signed and sealed before the end of this month, as their anticipated October arrival may hinder a smooth move. They still want to sell to me. Thankfully, I have yet to give notice on my flat, so they’ll get no pressure from me to hurry things up. I’ve waited years to get to the point of buying a house – a few more months won’t kill me.

Still, it is incredibly frustrating. I suspect that I’ll soon see the house they were hoping to buy back on the market soon at a much inflated price. I can only imagine that the seller thought he had a young family over the barrel, and got greedy. I’m half tempted to turn up at any potential viewings and be an arse. Which I wouldn’t, of course, because that would be petty and beneath me. But still – one can dream.

One thing that this whole process has just taught me though – they have a way better system for this in Scotland that prevents this kind of shenanigans. I really wish we had it in England.

Sods Law

Sods law states that the worst thing possible will happen at the worst possible time.

Or something like that.

I’m in the process of buying a house. I’m about to be throwing the largest amount of money at something that I ever have in my life.

I should have realised this would be the harbinger of a huge car bill.

Ah well. Almost £400 later, and my car has a new exhaust and is running pretty amazing.


An anniversary, of sorts.

This post deviates from the usual light-hearted tone I try to keep with this blog. It does have a happy ending, though!

Some facebook ‘memories’ photos have been showing up in my feed for me to share, and that made me realise a rather relevant anniversary for me.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of when I’d acknowledged that depression was completely kicking my arse, and I’d tucked my tail between my legs and run back to my dads house. The photo that prompted this post was taken on my first night back, when I went out for a meal with my mum, sisters, brother in law, aunt and cousin. I was attempting to present an image to the world that I was fine. I have a rather fixed grin on my face that does little to hint at how unwell I was inside. I spent the next 3 weeks as a sobbing wreck on dad’s settee, whilst trying to figure out how to fix myself.

I won’t dwell too much on the circumstances that had led me to that point. In essence, it was a perfect storm of circumstances – I am prone to seasonal depression over the winter months due to longer nights. I hadn’t managed to pull myself out of that when I started on some medication that was supposed to be able to help me quit smoking – but one of the side effects of that medication is depression. To add to all this, I was embroiled in a rather awful situation in my own life.

Sometimes, I look back and feel ashamed that I didn’t cope better. Because I’m supposed to be better than that. Then I total up everything that was going on, and realise that I shouldn’t have ever expected myself to be superwoman in the first place. I doubt there are many people out there who have the mental and emotional fortitude to deal with such circumstances without there being some kind of effect.

It sounds pretty rough, and it was – it was the lowest point of my life so far. I was really ill. But in my mind it marks the beginning of when I really started to take responsibility for my own mental health, and started making positive changes in my own life. I stopped taking those bloody quit smoking tablets, and switched to anti depressants. I worked towards letting go of the anger and bitterness over the situation I was in. I also became a bit more selfish – I realised that I do actually matter, and I owed it to myself to live a good life and to look after myself better.

I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come in the space of a year. I realised I have a network of solid and amazing people who I can approach for support when I need it. More to the point, I’ve let go of any shame in actually approaching those people when I do need a bit of a help. I have an amazing boyfriend in my life. I’ve moved forward in my career. I’ve adopted some of the principles touted by cognitive behaviour therapy to let go of my tendency towards warped thinking – in essence, let go of dwelling on the negative, and instead take a positive step forward. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, at times it was downright torture in my own head – but it has paid off. My life feels pretty amazing right now as a result – and it was me that got me there (with a little lot of help from my friends).

Now, that may not seem like much, but it’s pretty huge for me. I’m not 100% back to my old self – but that is not surprising. I have changed as a person (hopefully) for the better as a result of my experiences, so my old self is not someone I need or even want to be any more. I’ve lost nothing, and gained so much.

To sum up this post – depression is an absolute beast. Not only does it drag you down, it keeps you down by taking away the motivation to do anything to help yourself. I can only encourage anyone else going through this to please get help. Reach out to family and friends. See a doctor. Get therapy. Try anything and everything. It won’t be easy, but you’re worth it, even if your brain is currently telling you that you deserve all the shit that life is currently throwing at you. Your brain on depression is your worst enemy. Life can and will get better, and there is nothing shaming about accepting that you can’t always do it alone.

I am no longer depressed – I haven’t been for a good while now. I do still have my anxious moments. I know that I can’t allow myself to fall down that pit again, and I try to be very aware of the signs my own body and mind give me that I could be headed that way. I’m terrified of getting that ill again – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But that anxiety is merely the very last remnant of a time that is now in the past, and I am very eager for it to stay there. It’s the final thing to let go of – and I will throw it away, because I know it’s not worthy of being a part of me, and has no place in the life I want to have.

There you have it – I’m better, and I’m always working to get even more better. I am a work in progress, and I always will be. And the same goes for everyone else. So here’s the deal for me and everyone who is reading this – decide to be awesome, and keep being awesome. It’s worth it.

* One resource that helped me greatly is the MoodGYM training program. It’s free to use, and is accessed online: MoodGYM.