Tag: life

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 – What the Police Said.

Click here for part 2.

Where we left off, I had been to the bank to get things sorted out there, I’d been in touch with Experian, and I had raised a report with Action Fraud UK. So far so good.

The good probably stops there. I find the rest of this story infuriating on many, many levels.

Here is the response I got back from Action Fraud UK about this (copied and pasted from the email)

You recently made a report which we recorded under NFRC************

Home Office Counting Rules set out the circumstances under which we can record a crime and on this occasion the matter you reported to us cannot be classified as a police recorded crime. Home Office Counting Rules for Fraud and Cyber Dependent Crime can be found online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counting-rules-for-recorded-crime.

You have indicated within your report that the misuse of your personal details or that of a company trading style played a part in the matter you are reporting. The use of another person’s identity, often referred to as identity theft, is not a police recordable crime. Where the details are used to obtain goods or services, we can only record a crime on behalf of the person or organisation which was defrauded as a result of the misuse of an identity.

An example of a situation in which we could record a crime would be where details were used to obtain credit, the use of which left the provider of credit with a financial loss. In these circumstances we would record a crime for the provider of the credit and look to establish if there was scope for the matter to be investigated.

Whilst the misuse of your identity cannot be classified as a police recorded crime, we do recognise that identity theft can cause significant distress and inconvenience. For advice and support, please see www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud_protection/identity_fraud.

What happens next?

Whilst we have not recorded this matter as a crime, we will still make use of the information you have provided. Information reports are utilised to enrich the overall intelligence picture which assists with the formulation and refinement of prevention strategies.

If you have any queries regarding this letter please visit www.actionfraud.police.uk/FAQ. If you would like more information on how to protect yourself from fraud and cyber crime, please see the guidance at www.actionfraud.police.uk/support_for_you. You can also register on our partner website www.actionfraudalert.co.uk to receive email alerts about new and emerging crime types.

Thank you again for taking the time to report this matter.

For the ‘too long, didn’t read’ crowd – and to clarify to those who did read the above – identity theft is not classified as a crime unless a credit company has actually lost some cash. This email let me know for sure that there was going to be no police response. Someone was/is out there, running around with all they need to commit fraud in my name, and it is not a crime. There would be no effort to trace the person who attempted to pin a £10,000 loan on me. And goodness knows what else if they had actually managed to get access to my bank account.

I still feel ragey about this. I won’t rant about it here, as these posts are more about sharing what happened, what I did about it, and what I’d advise anyone else to do to protect themselves, or what to do should this ever happen to them.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story. Where we left off, I was waiting for Tuesday to arrive so that I could make the rest of the phone calls I needed to make. I had to phone in to work for this purpose (right off the back of a week off!) to try and get this lot sorted out.

I started off phoning Royal Mail, letting them know I had been a victim of identity theft, and that I wanted to make sure that none of my mail was being redirected. Thankfully, the impersonator had not thought that far ahead. No redirections were in place.

I phoned the other relevant credit agencies – Equifax and Transunion (I’d already spoken to Experian at the weekend). I let them know what had happened, and also that I had registered myself with CIFAS for protective registration. They reported that there were no other hard searches on my files.

I then decided to check my online banking to see if that pesky £10,000 had been given back to Hitachi yet. What I found instead was surprising – £9637.12 had been transferred away from my account, with only ‘Transfer’ listed in the details part.

I phoned the bank. I was able to get on to my telephone banking very easily, as my voice is now my password. I got through to a real person – who told me that they weren’t allowed to tell me anything, and that I needed to go to a bank in person with my identification. This time, I was actually able to book an appointment at the bank for later in the afternoon. This is the point in this whole story where I feel HSBC really let me down.

We’ll get in to the bank shenanigans in the next post. Thanks for reading this far!

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 – https://www.cifas.org.uk/. 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 https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/. 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.

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.

The Drugs Don’t Work

OK, I’m not talking hard core drugs here.

So, in my previous post, I vented about my migraines. Well, as part of that treatment, I was prescribed beta blockers (which did work to some extent, until I suffered the migraine mentioned in the previous post). After that, I was prescribed a higher dosage, which is when I started to join the dots on a few things.

Those who have read back further will know that I was doing the Insanity workout program. Prior to that, I had been doing the 30 Day Shred on a daily basis, with some 3 mile jogs mixed in.

I should have been losing weight. As you can probably imagine from this post, that wasn’t happening.

I was working out harder than I ever have in my life, and I wasn’t only gaining weight – I was gaining inches as well. I know my own body – and this wasn’t normal.

So, I checked my heart rate monitor (I’m now using a Garmin Connect, after my Mircosoft Band died its final death).

My heart rate was not getting into the fat burning zone at all. In fact, my heart rate stats whilst exercising looked like those of an incredibly fit person. Except I’m not. The beta blockers capped out my heart rate. While working out really hard, the highest I could get my heart rate was 115bpm. It wasn’t through lack of effort on my part.

God knows how much I would have ballooned if I hadn’t been exercising really hard. In the 3 months I was working out, but on the beta blockers, I gained half a stone in weight and an inch around my belly.

In addition, I could feel the beginnings of what I know from prior experience to be depression.

So, I am now off the beta blockers (following doctors advice, before anyone worries about me just going cold turkey!), and I’ll be starting the Insanity workout from scratch next week. The reason I decided to restart it after a break was to get the beta blocker heart rate cappage out of my system, and to also be able to get more scientifically fair results. I like having pretty graphs of data to look at with these things. Being able to measure my progress when I’m not being hindered by another factor is also more rewarding.

So, there you have it. Although I did initially read the side effects of the beta blockers, I missed the heart rate zone issue. I suspect that a result of that is a lower metabolism, so following the meal plan for Insanity was a double whammy on my poor belly.

Always read the label, folks.

Happy Shiny Migraines

I’m not after any medical advice here (seriously, if one more person tells me ‘just drink more water’, no matter how well meaning, I am going to scratch their eyes out). I’m just having a bit of a vent.

I’ve suffered migraines since about the age of 13. Sometimes they have been more frequent than not. In addition to what I’d deem a ‘classic’ migraine, I’ve also suffered even more frequently from what I’ve always termed ‘sick headaches’ – where I wake up feverish, with an awful throbbing in my left temple, aching all over and unable to keep any food down. The doctors have recently told me that these are in fact ‘mini migraines’. At this point, I’m more convinced that these are what my more ‘classic’ migraines turn in to when I’m unable to beat them at the pass due to missing all the signs (sunspots, etc) due to being asleep.

Typically, when I get one of these, I’m out of action for at least a day – it’s approximately 12 hours until I’m able to keep any food or drink down, and about all I can do is sleep in a dark room and try to keep sips of water down. The next day I generally feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

Anyways, I’ve been getting these ‘mini migraines’ (and classic migraine symptoms) more often in recent months. The doctor prescribed me some beta blockers, which helped a bit – but I’ve just spent the last 2 days out of action, as the vomiting did not stop.

On the doctors orders, I’ve been keeping detailed food diaries, sleep diaries, headache diaries. I’ve even added exercise diaries to this (as I figured I’d try to spin a positive on all this, and see if living a healthier lifestyle could help at all). Over the course of years, I’ve had blood tests, various tablets prescribed, cut down/cut out the more obvious things to no effect.

I’m at the end of my rope. I woke up this morning, on day 3 of having kept nothing down and feeling genuinely concerned that I was going to have to get myself to A&E for assistance in rehydrating. Fear not – I popped to the chemist, and a mix of anti-nausea and dioralyte seems to have fixed the vomiting issue for now. What’s really gotten me is how todays trip to the doctors went. My beta blocker dosage has been upped, some dissolve in the mouth pain killer tablets have been prescribed, and all my carefully maintained diaries have been completely ignored. Oh, but I have left the surgery with *more* print outs on the common causes of and treatment of migraines. Because I haven’t spent years looking at these kind of things, as I obviously love losing days of my life. Thanks.

I hate to admit it, but I burst into tears in the doctors surgery. This blog post is coming from a place of rage and pain, even while I acknowledge that migraines are bloody difficult to diagnose the cause of. But I can’t help but feel I’m being fobbed off, and after 2 days of sitting in a dark house, unable to keep food and water down, I’m feeling incredibly fed up and just done. 2 days off work, another day having to tell the bloke not to come around because I’m not up to cooking/eating/socialising. The doctor has told me that migraines are a chronic condition, and sometimes there is just no diagnosable underlying cause. Which could well be true, since I guess I haven’t keeled over and died from this yet.

I’m trying not to be too down. I’ve been back to google, and saw a recommendation to download Migraine Buddy, which I’ve done. It asks for similar information that I’ve already been logging, and seems to have the ability to correlate patterns, which could help me to self-diagnose my triggers. It looks like it could be really useful.

My main issue with it can be summed up in the below screenshot:

Screenshot_2017-06-14-11-35-20
Congratulating me on starting a migraine diary hits the wrong note, I fear. I now feel stabby.

This is far too happy and fluffy. Migraines are not to be congratulated. This shit is taking days of my life from me. STOP BEING SO HAPPY AND SHINY IN THE FACE OF MY PAIN, YOU STUPID PHONE. *

* I may not be in the best frame of mind today. I apologise. No phones were harmed in the making of this post.

The Politics Post

Today is General Election day in the UK. I’ve already been out and voted. In fact, I was eager enough to do so that I was a couple of minutes early, and had to actually be socialable and chat to the folks in the polling station until they were allowed to give me my ballot paper.

“I’m not normally one to discuss politics, but …” is something that is all too familiar on my social network feeds today. This is usually followed up with a proclamation that the poster has voted, then a statement about how everybody else needs to go and vote, to finish up with a sly (or in some cases, outright blatant) comment that is designed to shame anyone who voted in a way that they didn’t.

I’m not going to do that. I am proud to be able to say that I have friends across the entire political spectrum; many who are very vocal in their support. I’m comfortable enough in my own political beliefs that I see no need to deride them for theirs – even when I strongly disagree. More to the point – the idea of only listening to people who share my own politics is very uncomfortable to me. To put it bluntly – if I exist in an echo chamber, I don’t see how I can form an informed opinion. If I never challenge my convictions by listening with an open mind, then can I really have any faith in my convictions?

More importantly – if the strongest power I have as a voter is the ability to change my mind, how can that ever happen if I don’t listen to all sides of the argument?

Enough of that, though. I am straying from the point I’m wanting to make in this post.

Those of us in the UK live in a democracy. We are lucky to do so. That did not come for free. It may seem like an old cliche, but people have fought and died to give us a vote – the ability to stand up and have our say. There are countries out there were people like you and I do not have the chance to vote.

I don’t care how you vote. I only care that you do. So, if you are eligible to vote in the UK today, I really hope that you are going to pop out today and do so. You have until 10pm.

The fact it is raining is not an excuse. There was once a woman who deliberately got trampled by a horse in her fight for the right to vote. Google Emily Davison if you’re curious. Get an umbrella, get down to the polling station, and be counted.

Find all the candidates uninspiring? Better to spoil your ballot paper than to not vote at all. If enough people did that instead of not even showing, well … I can imagine it would be a better form of protest than not even bothering.

For those of you who have read this to the end – thanks for reading. I do hope you’re voting, or have already done so. If you’re not voting but are eligible to do so, please have a word with yourself. The cost of our democracy has been high. Just because that cost has not been paid in your lifetime, it does not mean that the cost was not real. Don’t waste the price that was paid for this.

Mobile Phone Sadness

Last year, I accidentally nuked my trusty windows phone. Along with my electronic cigarette.

I managed this feat of ineptitude by first plugging in my phone to a newer micro USB cable and mains plug. Finding it odd that my phone immediately rebooted itself after this, in my infinite wisdom I plugged in my electronic cigarette.

Yup, I am occasionally incredibly dumb.

A flash of blue light later, I soon after realised that what I had managed to do was fry the micro USB port on both my phone and my e cig. Meaning that I had lost the ability to charge the battery in both the phone and my e cig.

Oops.

So, long story short – I was forced to get a new phone. Having endured years of sneers along the lines of ‘Oh, a windows phone?’, and ‘You should get a *proper* phone, like an Android one’, I but the bullet and got myself a Galaxy J3.

About all I have gained from this is a cheaper monthly bill (as I switched tariffs), and access to a greater selection of mobile applications. Everything else? Sorry, I find it lacking in comparison to my old Nokia Lumia.

I found the Windows UI easier to manage – though this is a small hurdle, and I very quickly picked up how to effectively use my new phone.

Other niggles – occasionally, my new phone just refuses to connect to a wireless network it already knows. Or to any. I have to reboot it to fix this.

The Microsoft Health app is constantly pinging my Microsoft Band now – resulting in the battery life of the band being half of what it used to be. I have gone from having to charge it once a day to twice.

I have had to install an application that cleans up all the junk left behind by normal phone usage. I never had this issue on my old Windows Phone.

The major issue I have is how the Android system manages its storage. Granted, a bit of research here would have had me buying a phone with more space on it.

Android has the concept of internal and external storage (so, phone and card). This would be fine. Except the Android OS is actually quite clunky. It insists on having applications on it that I have no use for – yet I’m not allowed to uninstall them. Like Microsoft Office mobile apps.

I am at a computer all day, every day. If I need to use any Office application, I will use my computer. Not my phone. I use dropbox, not one drive. Yet these applications are sitting there, taking up precious internal storage space, not being used, and not allowing me to uninstall them. I have 8GB of internal storage.

What would be nice is if I could move these to my 64GB SD card, along with any app I install. But no. I’m not allowed to do this either.

Even though I have jumped through various hoops to try and make all new down loads go to my rather under-utilised 64GB available storage, Android insists on downloading new content to the internal storage. Of which there is very little left. Only certain applications will allow themselves to be moved to the external storage.

To add insult to injury – any time an app that I have managed to get stored on my SD card updates, it gets moved back over to my internal storage without letting me know. I am now in the habit of checking my SD apps after every update to move them back to my external storage. And even better – I can only move one at a time. And even the small apps take an age to move over.

From reading around this, I need to do 3 things – have my phone running in developer mode, root the phone (and invalidate the warranty), and do a mixture of hacking it myself and installing an internal to external application just to have some control over where my applications will be stored.

This is ridiculous. I never had this problem with my Windows Phone (which also had very limited internal storage). It had ‘Storage Sense’ – which let you pick and choose what got stored where. Such a simple concept.

This level of not having control over my own device is also the text book reason for why I do not use Apple products.

So, to all the snobs out there who mocked my usage of my Windows phone, and that Android is a ‘proper’ phone in comparison. Just no. I’ve used both, from a point of no prejudice, and while the Windows phone apps are lacking in comparison – at least the Windows phone let me have a choice in what is installed on it, and where it is actually installed. Android – I am really unimpressed, and will likely be back to using a windows phone once the contract on this one has run out.

The bottom line is this – I haven’t been able to play Pokemon Go because I apparently lack the storage space due to needing/wanting the apps I have installed. Sad times 😦