Bristol

Inside Out West TV presenter has identity 'stolen'

Image caption More than four million people have been victims of identity theft in the UK, according to a police study

How easy is it to steal someone's identity?

BBC Three's The Real Hustle reporter Polly Parsons carried out a sting on BBC presenter Alastair McKee and found it surprisingly easy.

For the BBC current affairs series Inside Out West, I agreed to help carry out a "sting" on the programme's presenter, Alastair McKee.

Without his knowledge, I was going to see how easy it would be to get hold of his personal details and cash in on them.

And I was going to do it the old-fashioned way.

Nowadays identity theft is too often seen as a hi-tech online crime when in fact it is still happening in the real world, and is scarily easy to do.

As part of the team for BBC Three's The Real Hustle, exposing scams and cons is all in a day's work for me.

But even I am amazed at how simple it can be to steal someone's identity.

So simple in fact that more than four million people in the UK have been victims of identity theft, according to a recent survey commissioned by the City of London Police.

'Real world'

Former Scotland Yard detective and current head of Bristol's local Scambusters anti-fraud team Alan Evans told me: "Let's forget about online crime because we are so focused on that.

"What we want to do is think about the real world.

"People have become so programmed for recycling that we throw rubbish out automatically and we forget that it contains a lot of information about us."

So, late one extremely cold night, I went out with the Inside Out investigations team and simply stole Alastair's rubbish and recycling from the street.

He is actually pretty meticulous when it comes to disposing of paperwork with his personal details on.

But even Alastair's household can slip up, leaving documents and paperwork unshredded and simply tossed - crumpled up but in one piece - into the recycling.

Of course, the average ID thief isn't expecting to find everything they want in one swoop but every little bit of personal information has its use.

And with a little bit of know-how and a spot of blagging, anyone's life can become an open wallet.

And there are even easier - and cleaner - ways of going about things than rummaging through people's bins.

Stealing mail before the victim has even seen it is one the most common methods used by crooks.

'Very traumatised'

That's just what Somerset conman Kevin Castle did.

By taking people's mail, Castle managed to obtain credit cards in other people's names and ran up tens of thousands of pounds in bills in just 10 months.

Castle, 46, of West Buckland, Wellington, pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court last month to 27 fraud charges and one of money laundering. He is due to be sentenced in April.

Investigating officer Det Con Allison Berry told me: "Identity theft is sometimes regarded as a victimless crime, but that's not actually the case.

"A lot of these victims have been very, very traumatised."

Fortunately Alastair was lucky - we called off our scam before our application for a credit card and £10,000 advance using his details was approved.

We lured him to a warehouse on the pretence of doing an interview with an ID fraud expert.

'Through my bins'

Instead, we revealed how close he had come to being the next identity theft victim.

His reaction says it all.

"I always think of myself as being absolutely meticulous with all my financial stuff so I'm amazed that really it's that easy to steal my identity," he said.

"I'll be being a lot more careful in the future. I'm shredding everything from now on and looking out for people going through my bins in the dead of night."

The full story can be seen on Inside Out West on BBC One on Monday at 19:30 GMT.

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