Do you remember that little nugget of an electoral campaigning quote from just over a decade ago? I'm sure you do. People don't trust government statistics; they didn't before Labour got in. But these days, the nanny establishment uses crime stats to try and persuade us that crime is in fact coming down overall. But we know what we read in the papers and we know how we feel walking on our streets, driving in our cars, travelling on public transport, shopping. We feel safer indoors in our homes, especially after dark - a thought can be a false sense of security in itself.
Anyway, I joined the legions of those who reported a crime last week and became a recorded victim of crime as my car had been vandalised. I won't elaborate as the need for confidentiality really does count, sometimes.
And to nicely top that off, today I opened an envelope containing two letters informing me that a data tape had been stolen and that it contained details of my account with the supplier company concerned, including my date of birth and bank account details. (There are 34,000 of us, appparently.)
As they said "details of my account", I am not sure if that list includes my name and address. If it does, they have the full package for an identity theft opportunity. Needless to say, I will be writing to find out, tomorrow, when I've calmed down.
Risks have been assessed and assurances are provided, but they don't provide enough detail for me. I am currently analysing the content of the two letters that came in the envelope - one from the named brand of the product, the other from the outsourced administrator of the product. I want to know more and I want the assurances to have real value. The tape's data may be "... accessed by highly specialist IT equipment" only, but first up, I wonder why an inactive account would need all those details for a back up tape? The unique identifier in such an ongoing case is simply the account number, surely? The first of many questions in that letter tomorrow...
I missed this one in the news, I have to admit. But a Google search indicates that I didn't have a chance, anyway. Interestingly, the theft of the tape(s) took place on 3 April 2008. On 22 April a local rag reported that an official had said "As soon as we were made aware of this issue ... our first priority was to write to our ... customers straight away". The letters from both companies are dated 19 April, almost two weeks after the theft. But then, I expect legal bods had to be consulted and consistent wording agreed, with the knowledge of whose insurance might pick up any claims confirmed. It was also on the BBC's site on the same day - 22/4 - but for a certain county's set of web news pages. (Never mind that the customers were all over the UK for them to consider it "main stream" news...)
The letters arrived in an innocuous plain white envelope, not even the company logo seen anywhere, nothing to alert me to the importance of the contents. I'd assumed it was more marketing literature from God knows who. So, it's taken me about a week to open it. Stupid me! We live and learn.
As for crime, I have a catalogue of experience during the last three years that makes a previous four years in Bucks look like an easy life with a prior, almost ten years in London look like a dream:
- April 2008 car vandalism, reported.
- April 2008 ID theft, a work in progress but not for me to report.
- 2007 card details theft (those wonderful financial services company systems for fraud were on to that in a flash). I had the card in my purse. They had my details and tried for a fiver. No need to report, but here's the interesting fact: financial services companies can do a lot for themselves and not report the attempted crime. There are so many and of little individual value that it's not worth police time. But trends are monitored and recorded, because they may lead to a bigger crime operation.
- A few other intervening things, I choose not to document here, but they'd fall into ASBO category.
- Late 2004, I saw a "hoodie" punch my wing mirror, not reported.
In Bucks I'd had two instances of my mis-represented address being used for "can't pay for petrol on site at the time" by some shites who took advantage; one incidence of the brand logo being scraped off my car hatch (nice scratches, thanks); and one attack on a wing mirror.
In London (1990-1999), I experienced the start of development of anti-social behaviour, but put it down to teenage years and those with significant mental health problems, at the time. I can't remember calling the police once, but I'm also sure I'm wrong here.
The current issue, as notified by letter, is the probable cause of me having to look into my subscription to Six Apart last weekend, after my direct debit failed. When I spoke to my bank last Saturday, they said they were on the alert to unusual transactions, especially those involving foreign currency. Good on them, even if at small inconvenience to me. Following the data theft, the banks have been alerted and are monitoring accounts for unusual activity.
We tend to hate banks, but having worked in the financial servies sector for best part of a decade and a half, I know that banks have learned some lessons and that they do take crime seriously, installing systems (yes, it's more than one, you know) to counteract crime. Some of the "marketing bumph" you receive is not solely or only about marketing per se, but about protecting real, valid, valued customers.
"...tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime..."? Give me another country as an example here. WE, IN THE UK, ARE CRAP at this, why did we ever pretend otherwise?
Can the UK make it up? Can we ever meet the standards and values of our EU counterparts and be an example for the western world.
I sincerely hope so. But right now we fall very short of the mark.