A couple of weeks ago there was a phone call for Mr WithaY from his bank. That in itself was enough to worry me, as generally the relationship we have with the bank is low-key and unfussy. We don't bother them, they don't bother us. They store our money in carefully-labelled mouseproof shoeboxes out the back somewhere, and give it to us when we ask for it.
So far, so good.
The lady from the bank was polite but insistent. She really REALLY needed to speak to Mr WithaY. Yes, it was important. No, she couldn't tell me what the call was about. When he came home that evening, I passed on the message, and the following morning he called them back.
It was not good news. Apparently the bank had noticed a pattern of "unusual spending" on the account, had declined a transaction, and decided to contact Mr WithaY.
The transaction they had declined was an attempt to borrow money from one of those payday loan companies. The ones who charge thousands of percent APR, that are always advertising on TV, trying to persuade us to borrow money for short-term emergencies. Or holidays. Or a new car. Or anything we want, really...after all, why do they care? As long as we pay it back, it's all cool.
In the interests of research, I just went to one of their websites and checked out how much it would cost to borrow £250 for 30 days. The additional interest and fees come to just over £80. The APR is 4214%. Over FOUR THOUSAND PERCENT. Obviously, they intend it to be a very short term solution, but bloody hellfire. Four thousand percent.
But I digress. Mr WithaY spent a depressing time on the phone to the bank, going through his recent expenditure, and it was established that yes, his identity had indeed been stolen, and some filthy thieving fucker* had taken about £1000 from his account.
I have to say that the bank were extremely helpful. Once they had established what was legitimate Mr WithaY spend and what was thievery, they said that all the stolen money would be refunded, and they would contact the police to report the theft.
We had a nice cup of tea and discussed the event, with a lot of tutting about the parlous state of morals in this country, and the bloody invidious TV adverts that encourage people to live on ever-increasing debts to support some media-fuelled aspirational lifestyle. Gah.
Some time passed.
Last week, while Mr WithaY was away at twig camp, several letters arrived for him. We don't tend to open one another's mail, in general, so I piled his letters up on the hall table and thought no more of it. Then, on Friday, a postcard arrived. It looked like one of those "Sorry you were out when we called" cards that the postman leaves when he tries to deliver your new Terry Pratchett book while you're in the shower.
I read it. It said that due to their inability to contact him, a "representative" would be coming to see Mr WithaY on a certain date, and could he please telephone to confirm that he would be at home for the appointment. There was a phone number, and the name of a company I had never heard of.
I did what any diligent** wife would do, and Googled the company name. Guess what? It was a payday loan company.
So, yesterday, once all the bushcraft kit was unpacked, and the smell of woodsmoke had dissipated a little, Mr WithaY rang the number on the card. It seems that whoever stole his identity had successfully borrowed money from this company, and, not surprisingly, they wanted it back, as per contract terms and conditions.
Once again, the lady he spoke to was incredibly sympathetic and helpful. Whoever had stolen the money had used a real name (Mr WithaY's) and a real address (ours) but had given fake references. Well you would, wouldn't you?
Once the payday loan company checked the references, after the money had been lent, they discovered that the roofing company the thief claimed to work for didn't exist. Well DUH.
Seems more sensible to check references and then hand over the cash, but hey, I'm sure they know what they're doing***.
Anyway, the payday loan company said that they would talk to the bank, and asked Mr WithaY to let them have the crime reporting number so that they too could report their losses to the police, or the insurance, or the ombudsman, or whoever is responsible for making sure nobody loses out.
So now we have to wait and see if we get any more slightly intimidating postcards alerting us to the fact that a "representative" of a loan company is going to come and see us. Oh, and whether our credit rating has been fucked up big-time**** by this tiresome drama.
And how did this all come about, you may ask? Did we stupidly put documents in the bin that someone later picked out and used? Did we use a public computer for fiscal transactions and left ourselves logged in? Did we lose our bank card, and also our PIN which was on a scrap pf paper next to it?
We are both incredibly careful about all that stuff, and burn anything with our details on it once it's finished with.
Mr WithaY recently used a reputable and supposedly safe online shop, with all the correct https protocols in place. A little while after he had used the shop, they emailed him to tell him that their secure (ha!) server had been hacked, and that therefore his bank details may have been compromised.
So. Be very careful, dear readers. It could happen to you. And if it does, you could end up with Knuckles and No-Ears Eddie paying a visit to take your TV away if you fail to pay the 4214%.
*Technical law-enforcement terminology
**No I don't. I think they're irresponsible and stupid.
****Technical banking terminology