£2,800 suddenly went missing from the joint account I share with my girlfriend last week, and unusually, she had no shopping to show for it. It was only when the bank rang to confirm she had been a victim of identity theft that I started to believe she wasn't hoarding Prada handbags.
We like to think we are fairly savvy about information security in our household, with an active firewall on the broadband router, plus anti-virus and anti-spyware software running on every PC. We don't give financial or personal details to anyone over the phone, and we even shred bank statements and other sensitive documents before throwing them away, on the off chance that somebody other than next door's cat might rummage through the dustbin.
But despite all the precautions we took, the local petrol station wasn't so meticulous in its defensive preparations. According to police, a chain of garages all over the country has been targeted, with criminal gangs getting hold of customer credit and debit card details before going on Internet and high street cash back spending sprees.
The most likely scenario is that hackers gained access to the retailers computer systems to monitor financial transactions - easier than surreptitiously putting a card skimmer into point of sale (PoS) systems and retrieving it by stealth from under the cashier's nose later.
So no matter how many precautions you take personally, there is always a weak link somewhere in the vast network of electronic commerce that defines the modern economy. Plenty of advice telling us, as individuals, what to do to prevent ID theft is available -clearly, some retailers need to get their house in order as well.
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