Let’s Be Careful Out There!

August 21, 2007 at 1:36 pm 3 comments

Let’s Be Careful Out There!


I have recently had a job with responsibility for the security of payment cards and combating fraud. I loved it. I like to think I learned a great deal. I came to the job with almost zero knowledge and left it much better informed, with a huge suspicion and distrust of my fellow man, and of so-called secure technology. It was a huge eye opener.

As a result, I am all in favour of the government’s plan to mark privacy areas around ATMs – holes in the wall. For sure, I will never let that personal space be invaded while I am keying my PIN number. Indeed, I am a bit anal about the whole process of withdrawing money from a cash dispenser. I check for pin-hole cameras. I check for false keyboards. I check for card skimming devices. I check for shoulder surfers (people looking over your shoulder to see what PIN you enter). I check for people with MP3 devices within range. All of these things are widely used to your capture card details and to produce copy or counterfeit cards.

I never let my personal credit card out of my sight – petrol stations and Indian and Chinese restaurants are amongst the most common locations where card details are skimmed. Watch out for waiters who have a cloth hanging from their belt as it may be concealing a card skimmer. Never let them take your card away to pay.

I shred all material containing personal data. I would hate to be a victim of identity fraud. Am I over reacting? No I am not. Fraud is a lot more common than most people would think. You are a lot more vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime than you would think.

Did you know that statistically, 30 to 80% of all job applications contain lies or exaggerations; company employees commit 12% of fraud; management commits 40% of fraud. Who checks your expense claims? Perhaps you should take a closer look at those colleagues you sit with in the office every day. Is he or she a fraudster? How would you tell? Well, the typical profile of a fraudster is someone who does not take holidays, someone who is secretive about business processes, is resistant to supervision, has poor inter-personal skills, has good technical ability, works late, is prone to substance/alcohol abuse, is prone to relationship discord……..Sounds like most of my colleagues. Especially those in the security department. Worrying!

Actually fraud, or rather the impact of fraud, has touched me only fleetingly in my existence to date. And that is as close as I would ever like it to get.

I gave back my first ever company car. I had been so looking forward to my first company car. But, I sent this one back. I refused to drive it. How insensitive of the Company to give me a car that had previously been that of a recently deceased colleague. A recently deceased colleague who had taken his own life. A colleague who had killed himself by attaching a pipe to the exhaust of his company car, passing it through a small gap in a window and sitting in his car in his garage until he breathed no more. This was a lovely guy. He was an experienced sales rep who, just one month earlier, I had shadowed as part of my sales training. Unfortunately he was also a fraudster. He had been caught exaggerating sales in collusion with a number of dealerships for which he was responsible, meaning that they received higher commission payments from the Company than they had been entitled to. He was splitting the additional payments with the dealers. He got caught. The shame of being caught drove him over the edge. Drove him to suicide. He left a wife and two teenage kids. There was no way I was driving that car.

I also know someone who sold her company car. She was a bit loopy at the time.

On another occasion, C and I almost bought a house from someone who didn’t own the house they were selling. A house in Gee Cross near Hyde in Manchester. It was a beautiful house. A double-fronted Georgian house with an nice walled garden and a barn that could have been converted into C’s consulting room (she’s a counsellor and trainee psychotherapist). It was a bit dated inside and would have required decorating throughout, a new kitchen, and bathroom. But it was a beautiful house and would have been a wonderful investment property for us. It was going cheap because it needed some work and, we were told, because the owner had recently died very suddenly and unexpectedly.

We were going through the buying process when, on one evening while I was away on business, C was watching a reconstruction on a TV news programme. It was a reconstruction of the killing of the last victim of a notorious serial killer. It showed the killer parking outside of a beautiful double-fronted Georgian house in Gee Cross near Hyde in Manchester. It showed him entering the house through a nice walled garden, next to a barn. It showed him administering the lethal injection to his victim. The killer then went on to forge the poor lady’s will so that it looked as if she had bequeathed him a huge amount of money, and the house in which she lived. The house in which she died. The house in which she had been killed. And, the house in which the killer had subsequently intended to sell to us, before he was caught.

The killer was a doctor. A General Practitioner by the name of Doctor Harold Shipman. Doctor Death. The most prolific serial killer ever to disgrace these shores. After his trial, an inquest decided that there was enough evidence to suggest that Shipman had killed some 215 people, mostly women. His youngest victim had been a 41-year-old woman. Some sources have suggested that Shipman may have killed over 400 people.

I hate to think how we would have stood legally or otherwise (or where we would have lived) if we had bought the house before the fraudulent will had been discovered. It doesn’t bear thinking about. We had a lucky escape.

So, just you take care. Keep your cards close. Be careful what you throw away. Have a healthy degree of caution when dealing with others. And, watch your colleagues closely. Above all, if you are doing something wrong, stop it now. Before you get caught. The consequences don’t bear thinking about. As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Hill Street Blues) would have said: “Let’s be careful out there!”



Entry filed under: Cautionary Tales, Economy. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Where’s The Volume Control? Anything For The Weekend?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Triplesod  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:16 am


    It’s a shame you see this as a “lucky escape”. Of course the murder is abhorrent but unless you are very superstitious the muder is no more than a pat of the house’ recent history. I presume you are talking about Mrs Grundy’s house on Joel Lane. I lived a couple of houses down (one of the three stories). Mrs Grundy was a lovely person and a perfect neighbour and as you said, her house was/is beautiful. Some family friends are now living there.

    It is unfortunately that you didn’t take advantage of the cheap asking price (I don’t know how much it was). I’m sure you would have been very happy there.

    Hopefully you found the perfect house for you anyway.


  • 2. Triplesod  |  December 4, 2007 at 1:21 am

    Regarding my above post.

    I apologise. It appears I misread your piece. I thought your concern was living somewhere a murder had taken place, when in fact, it seems you true (and sensible) worry was regarding the wil.

    I will be sure to read any of your other posts more carefully;-)

    All the best


  • 3. Middleman  |  December 6, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for the comments Triplesod. I am sure your friends will be happy in the house – it was indeed beautiful.



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