Credit crunch? Con merchants have never had it so good

LAST week s story about the fraudster who targeted Caroline Walker in Letchworth GC and tried to take out four credit cards in her name, for me, highlighted one thing – she is one lucky lady. Royal Mail sent notification to Caroline that her post would be

LAST week's story about the fraudster who targeted Caroline Walker in Letchworth GC and tried to take out four credit cards in her name, for me, highlighted one thing - she is one lucky lady.

Royal Mail sent notification to Caroline that her post would be redirected, starting the following day.

It's lucky she wasn't on holiday and was able to cancel the redirection immediately, as she went on to receive four credit cards, congratulating her for her successful applications. If the redirection of mail had not been swiftly cancelled, these cards would no doubt have landed in the lap of the con.

It's lucky her postman was so astute and alerted her to the redirection letter in her pile of mail in the first place. What if she had left her post on the sideboard and not looked at it straight away? One day's notice before your mail is sent elsewhere is unacceptably short.


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You would think security measures put in place by the credit card companies would have played a big part in spotting the swindler, but no - it was a shrewd postman and a lot of luck.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that a simple and effective security measure for both Royal Mail and the credit card companies to use would be to write to the applicant and ask them to write back and confirm their application. A tear-off form with a yes/no question and a space for a signature would make it even more straightforward.

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Perhaps I'm doing myself a disservice and it does take a genius to come up with such a 'radical' idea, but somehow I don't think so. I just can't understand why it hasn't been implemented by these companies.

The cost would be negligible as the organisations wouldn't have to fork out for the postage for the return of the form. I'm sure people wouldn't begrudge paying 36p for a stamp for something that will help protect them from potentially losing thousands of pounds.

As a weak defence, a spokesman for Royal Mail told me it writes to people confirming their redirection precisely so they will be able to cancel it if they didn't request the action. But what if people are away on holiday?

It explains on the Royal Mail website that it needs "five days notice to set up the redirection".

So, for example, on day one the request for redirection is made, on day two it is processed by Royal Mail and a letter is sent to the applicant, on day three the letter is received by the applicant. This leaves a maximum of two days (and that's only if Royal Mail is being super efficient) for someone to be alerted to the action and cancel the redirection. This is simply not good enough.

Even those only away for a long weekend may not have enough time to cancel the action before credit cards in their name are sent to a charlatan at another address, which, by the way, could be anywhere in the world as Royal Mail accepts redirections to international addresses.

The same Royal Mail spokesman also lamely stated that it asks people for proof of address when they apply. But, wait a minute, you can apply online or over the phone, so how does that work?

On Royal Mail's website it says it "takes the security of your personal information extremely seriously. To prevent fraudulent use of the redirection service we need to confirm your identity...To this end, we use a trusted third party provider of credit checks to validate your identity based on the personal information you provide us with."

This personal information consists of old address details, new address details, date of birth, credit or debit card details, and names of all residents to be included in the redirection and how long they have lived at the old address. This information could be found, fairly easily, with a good rummage in someone's dustbin. Whatever happened to having to produce photo ID?

With the Royal Mail and credit card companies seemingly as useless as each other in terms of employing sufficient security measures, con merchants have never had it so good.

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