SALLY SORTS IT: Daughter chased by debt collectors after identity scam

SALLY SORTS IT: Care-worker daughter hounded by debt collectors after scammers stole her identity

My care-worker daughter had her identity stolen just after Christmas. She then received letters from four mobile phone providers welcoming her to new contracts, for which she had not signed up.

The letters came from O2, Three, Tesco Mobile and iD Mobile. We sent letters to inform each provider of the fraud. 

Three and Tesco quickly confirmed a fraud had indeed occurred. But O2 has been sending default notices, disconnection notices, notice of enforcement letters and arrears notices.

Identity theft: Crooks were able to set up four mobile phone accounts using a readers' stolen financial details

Identity theft: Crooks were able to set up four mobile phone accounts using a readers’ stolen financial details

We rang on January 29 and were told the case was being sent to the fraud department. 

When we called two weeks later, we were informed this had not happened but it would be dealt with.

By March, and after several calls, we were told the case had not been sent to the fraud team until February 24, and that we should allow 30 days for investigation. We’ve still heard nothing.

Meanwhile, iD Mobile sent a letter asking for details, which my daughter sent by email. But she has since received two letters from a debt collection agency.

We would be grateful for any help as this is causing a great deal of stress. I worry every time the post arrives.

L. R., Swindon.

Sally Hamilton replies: It is not only shocking that a crook was able to set up so many contracts in your daughter’s name, but surprising that this kind of scam is still going on.

It’s been a problem for years, often perpetrated in person by a fraudster brazenly visiting a shop armed with all the personal details required to pose as a genuine customer, setting up a contract and walking out with an expensive phone.

Scammers increasingly ply this trade online and arrange for devices to be redelivered to a different address. They typically do not use a victim’s bank details, but when the impostor fails to pay the bills, the provider chases the debt via the victim’s address.

Your daughter was not aware of having her personal details compromised, but it is likely they were stolen following an online data breach.

Three accounts were set up with O2 alone, including one for an Apple iPad Pro at a cost of £76.50 a month for 48 months.

The payments on all the scam accounts amounted to about £200 a month which, assuming all were set up for 48 months, would mean a total £10,000 fraud.

Scam Watch 

Beware fraudulent emails claiming that your TV Licence could not be automatically renewed.

In one message doing the rounds, scammers posing as TV Licensing wrote that they had been unable to take the latest payment from a customer’s account and directed victims to click on a link to set up a new direct debit.

But the link takes you to a fake website where you give crooks access to your personal details.

While two of the providers put your daughter out of her misery quickly, O2 and iD Mobile (part of Currys) were dragging their heels — until I got involved.

Money Mail has previously warned of a spate of complaints about fraud at O2, but the firm denies its processes are at fault, with a spokesman saying: ‘We have thorough checks in place for signs of fraud at all points of sale, and in fact, UK mobile operators generally perform very similar checks to one another.’

O2 says the correct fraud reporting process had not been followed by customer services in this case. It adds its agents have now had refresher briefings on how to deal with these situations.

A spokesman says: ‘We apologise for the delay in resolving this issue. We’ve closed the fraudulent accounts, wiped all debt, updated her credit file, and will be offering a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience caused.’ The goodwill gesture turned out to be a hamper, which left your daughter underwhelmed, but she was glad the ordeal was over.

Meanwhile, Currys says the rogue iD Mobile account was not ‘actioned’ when reported as fraudulent, meaning your daughter’s name ended up in the hands of debt collectors.

A spokesman tells me her account will be cleared and her credit file updated — though there was no offer of a hamper.

John Webb, of credit reference agency Experian, says: ‘Most victims of this type of fraud will be unaware of it until they check their credit report or receive a bill through the mail.

‘If it happens, it’s important to speak to the lender immediately or contact a credit reference agency to get these debts queried and removed from your credit report.’

Straight to the point 

Please can you ask EDF Energy to reissue a refund cheque to my 90-year-old uncle? His late wife was the account holder, but he has paid the bills since she died.

P. A., Gloucestershire.

EDF has requested that the £46.66 cheque written out to the executor of her estate is cancelled and reissued in your uncle’s name. It has also cleared an outstanding balance of £7.49 and offered a £25 goodwill payment.

*** 

I signed up to a free trial with video website Vimeo. But when I cancelled, I did not receive confirmation and have now been charged £1,008 for a one-year subscription.

F. G., via email.

Vimeo refused to answer my questions about the ease of its cancellation process, but a spokesman has agreed to refund you the full amount.

*** 

My husband and I used to have our pensions paid into our Post Office Card Accounts. When we were told these were closing, we set up a bank account with the Co-op. So why has the Department for Work and Pensions sent me a card in the post?

G. W., Stafford.

You were sent a Payment Exception Service card by mistake. These are only supposed to go to people who do not have bank or building society accounts. A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman apologises for any distress caused.

*** 

After my cruise was cancelled, I chose to leave my £411 deposit with Princess Cruises to benefit from Future Cruise Credit, which I can use on another trip. However, the money was mistakenly returned to my travel agent, Iglu Cruise, and now no one seems to know where it is. Please can you help track it down?

C. Y., Sutton.

Both firms agreed there had been a ‘system error’ somewhere. The money has now been sent back to Princess Cruises and the Future Cruise Credit has been applied.

Too much noise at the inn

I stayed at the Broad Street Premier Inn in Birmingham for two nights in February.

During the second night, I was awoken in the early hours by excessive noise coming from people in the corridor above me. In the morning, the receptionist told me about Premier Inn’s Good Night Guarantee and suggested I make a claim. Immediately I did so. Yet my claim was rejected on the grounds that I didn’t report it in good time.

I would like to say that the staff at the hotel were amazing and I have no complaints. It was the response of the customer relations team that put the company to shame.

J. M., by email.

Sally Hamilton replies: I looked up the guarantee, which says: ‘At Premier Inn, we’re so confident you’ll have a great night’s sleep that if you don’t, we’ll give you your money back.’

It states that a guest has seven days after their stay to make a complaint and have the room payment refunded. So you hadn’t dreamt it.

I asked Premier Inn’s parent company Whitbread why your claim was denied, as you had not only acted within hours of the incident taking place but on the suggestion of the receptionist.

I was told your claim did not meet the parameters of the guarantee as the disruption wasn’t reported at the time, when staff would have been able to put things right by shushing the noisy guests staying above you.

You’d have had to read the small print to know this is an exclusion.

However, on my intervention, Whitbread has agreed to refund your second night’s bill of £38, as a goodwill gesture.

A spokesman says: ‘We are sorry for the confusion caused on this occasion and hope to welcome J.M. again soon.’

  • We love hearing from our loyal readers, so ask that during this challenging time you write to us by email where possible, as we will not pick up letters sent to our postal address as regularly as usual. You can write to: Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It [new column name to be confirmed Tuesday], Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk – include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given