Any advice or opinions it contains may be super outdated, so believe at your own risk
On Sunday, a girl in her late twenties walked into a jeweller’s and bought a watch.
That would ordinarily be a pretty boring and uneventful story. If it hadn’t been a £4,500 silver Cartier watch. And she hadn’t used my name and address to do it.
The first I knew about it was on Tuesday night when I got home to a letter with my name handwritten on the front. To put things into perspective, I’d had two hours’ sleep, spent 13 hours straight in the office with no break, and had generally had a crappy and exhausting day.
I opened the envelope, and there in black and white was a three page credit agreement to the tune of £4.5k (she’d already paid a deposit, so the whole total was closer to £5k). I freaked out, and made Joe read it to check I wasn’t going mental. My first thought was that perhaps it was a scam trying to convince me to sign a direct debit agreement…but nope. It was real.
(For that additional irony factor, and because my life is periodically very ridiculous for no apparent reason, the third party finance company involved happened to be a rather large company that I sold a domain name to a while back. There’s nothing quite like having your identity stolen and then being casually informed about it accidentally with a letter featuring one of your own domain names. But anyway…).
The worst thing about the whole situation was that it was almost 10pm and there was very little we could do about it, other than google the jewellery shop (it was a local one), check the other information on the letter (all totally wrong, with the exception of my birthday, which was suspiciously close), and call the listed phone numbers. We’re crime-solving cats like that. Anyway, it didn’t get us very far; the landline number wasn’t in use and the mobile belonged to a suspicious man who apparently didn’t know anything about it. Joe even called the supermarket that the girl said she worked at (£40-50,000 on the Beauty counter? I think not), but they wouldn’t give out any information. Which is fair enough, I suppose, although I imagine that all the details were carefully honed to be untraceable anyway. Unfortunately they made one tiny mistake. I’ll get to that in a bit.
The next day – despite my total exhaustion I got very little sleep due to the anxiety – we went to the jewellery store to find out what happened. Having never been in there before, I was slightly taken aback when the door was opened for us by a snappily suited man, and we were greeted by about four staff members and a terrifyingly luxurious cream carpet. I was immediately concerned that we’d destroy that within seconds, and that perhaps something a bit smarter than hoodies and jeans was in order. (As it turned out, it’s pretty high-end and a £4k watch is amongst the cheapest they do; they go all the way up to £30k, so I guess we were lucky in that respect). But as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Everyone in there was absolutely lovely, and more than a little concerned as you can imagine. The manager immediately took all the details and called the police. Since my bank details weren’t involved, it was more a crime against the shop than anyone else.
The woman who served my criminal alter ego was actually in the shop when we were there, and she was more than a little freaked out. I bit back the temptation to ask more about this girl (was she hotter than me? Taller than me?), and instead focused on trying to find out exactly what proof of identity the fake me had used to buy the watch. The shop assistant first thought it was a bank statement, then a utility bill, either of which seemed odd to me unless they were very good forgeries. The bank account used wasn’t in ‘my’ name, and none of my utility bills ever leave my house in any form (that mystery still hasn’t been solved. Yet). Anyway, they asked us to give them a few minutes to find the paperwork for the order and to check their CCTV, so we took the opportunity to nip to the bank in question and tell them.
Before leaving the house, Joe had suddenly remembered that we’d had a couple of letters addressed to a French man arrive at the house that appeared to be new bank account details. We’d thought it was a bit weird but hadn’t paid too much attention (for various reasons that aren’t interesting enough to outline here). In fact, we’d made a couple of jokes about who this guy might be and even considered including him in our Cards Against Humanity set. Strangely enough, it was the same bank that was listed on the credit agreement, so we thought it couldn’t hurt to take them along just in case.
Luckily it wasn’t my bank, because otherwise I probably would have freaked out entirely, but in any case the staff seemed pretty interested in the situation and I took the opportunity to express some of my concerns: ‘I’m so relieved she bought something tasteful, I was terrified it would be something tacky, like a gold chain,’ and, ‘I bet she looks older than me’ (to which the bank guy emphatically replied, ‘I bet she does!’ Great answer). Unfortunately they couldn’t tell us much about the account – ironically for data protection – but they did confirm that the new account details matched those on the credit agreement. Clearly all those hours we spent watching every single episode of CSI were worth it. God only knows how someone managed to get a bank account set up at my address but under someone else’s name (again, hopefully we’ll find out), but looking over their shoulder it looked like the account hadn’t had much activity.
Anyway, we provided all the details again and then headed back to the jeweller’s, by which point all the staff had apparently been told about what was going on and we were greeted even more enthusiastically with ‘How are you? Do you want a drink? Tea, coffee?’ which was really nice. I did make a joke that Joe would be back in to buy my birthday and Christmas presents (it wasn’t really a joke, although it will be if he buys me a Cartier watch. At which point I’ll hit him round the head with it). They’d reviewed the CCTV and, totally unprompted, said ‘She looks nothing like you. Nothing!’ by which I can only assume that she’s tall, slim, white, blonde, well-dressed, glowing, and probably looks exactly like the kind of person who’d buy a £4.5k Cartier watch. I, on the other hand, look exactly like the kind of person who has never slept or owned a hairbrush and obviously likes cake a little too much.
I mentioned earlier that my criminal alter ego made one tiny mistake. And I’m grateful she did, because if she hadn’t, none of us would be any the wiser. When she left the shop, she forgot to take the credit agreement with her. That’s why they posted it out and what kicked the whole thing off. Apparently they don’t typically post out confirmation or another copy of the details or anything – at which point I told them they really should, especially for amounts that high. I appreciate that people buy things as presents and so on, but my agreement arrived in a handwritten unmarked envelope, so unless you have household members opening your post, it would reduce the likelihood of fraud significantly (seriously, maybe I’m in the wrong job or something).
There are still a few little loose ends to tie up, and I’ll report back if there’s any more news, but I have made a few changes as a result. I’ve removed my birthday from Facebook, signed up for alerts so if anyone uses my email addresses, bank details, name or address to sign up for something I’m immediately notified, and checked my credit report. Luckily they only did one search (for the watch), and I passed that so it’s not too bad, but it’s still very worrying.
And to anyone else thinking they might like to become the next Jennifer Brown and buy some stuff, I’d like a new kitchen and a Nikon 28-300mm lens please.