Friday, April 04, 2008

'I WAS FALSELY BRANDED A PAEDOPHILE' !

By Marc Sigsworth

With ID fraud on the rise, the assumption is you'll lose money which can be claimed back. But Simon Bunce lost his job, and his father cut off contact, when he was arrested after an ID fraudster used his credit card details on a child porn website.
Simon Bunce used to be a keen internet shopper, delighted to escape the hordes and have goods delivered to his door. Wary of fly-by-night operators, he bought only from big name retailers with secure websites.
But then, four years ago, he was astonished to find himself embroiled in Operation Ore, the UK's largest ever police hunt against internet paedophiles. He was arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children, downloading indecent images of children and incitement to distribute indecent images of children.
Hampshire Police took away his computer and data storage devices including flash drives, CDs and floppy disks, as well as examining the computer and storage devices that he used at work.
The effect was devastating. When his employers became aware of the reason he had been arrested, he was abruptly dismissed from his £120,000 a year job, and close members of his family disowned him.

FIND OUT MORE...
Identity Fraud: Outnumbered is on BBC One on Thursday, 3 April, at 2100 BST
Catch up at BBC iPlayer

"I made the mistake of telling my father, and he cut me off," Mr Bunce says. "He then told all my siblings and they also cut us off."
Suddenly deprived of his income, Mr Bunce had to consider selling the family home. But his wife, Kim, stuck by him, and supported his mission to clear his name.
Mr Bunce knew he was innocent - he had never downloaded indecent images, and so he knew that the police would not find any evidence on the computers or storage devices they had taken away.
But the police's computer technicians take several months to examine these, and Mr Bunce could not afford to wait to repair the damage done to his reputation. "I knew there'd been a fundamental mistake made and so I had to investigate it."
Identity fraud occurs when personal information is used by someone else to obtain credit, goods or other services fraudulently. Recent surveys suggest that as many as one in four Britons have been affected by it. In 2007 more than 185,000 cases of identity theft were identified by Cifas, the UK's fraud prevention service, an increase of almost 8% on 2006.
Operation Ore targeted suspected paedophiles believed to have been downloading indecent images of children, those whose credit card details had been used to buy pornography via an American portal called Landslide - the gateway site and central credit card handler for hundreds of websites.

OPERATION ORE
7,272 UK residents targeted
Including Robert del Naja of Massive Attack and The Who's Pete Townshend, who was given a caution
In many cases, suspects had had their card details stole.
Hundreds of successful prosecutions ensued, with extensive media coverage given to high profile suspects, including actor Chris Langham of The Thick of It.
As Landslide was based in the United States and under investigation there, Mr Bunce was able to use the US Freedom of Information Act to obtain a complete copy of all of the relevant material, including databases, access logs and credit card information, together with detailed information of the webmasters, which allowed him to find out how his credit card details had been used.
Each computer has a unique internet protocol number, or IP address, which identifies the specific computer and its geographic whereabouts whenever it is used to access the internet.
Mr Bunce discovered that the computer used to enter his credit card details was in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the date and time that his credit card details were entered onto the Landslide website was at a time when he could prove that he was using the same card in a restaurant in south London.
"I can't be in two places at once, so somehow my data had got to the man in Indonesia."
He was also able to discover that his credit card details had been obtained from a popular online shopping site, but he doesn't know how these came to be in the hands of a criminal.
The man responsible for using his credit card details hid behind the online name "Miranda" - a webmaster who hosted and produced pornographic websites and received a commission from Landslide for subscriptions to his website which were paid by credit card. "Miranda" had used Mr Bunce's credit card details - without his knowledge - to take out a subscription to one of his websites.
In September 2004, the police told Mr Bunce they would not proceed with any action against him. They had not found indecent material, and accepted that it wasn't him who had entered his credit card details on the Landslide website.
It took another six months before he got another job, earning a quarter of the salary he'd earned before his arrest.
Mr Bunce has also reconciled with his family, having explained to them how he came to be implicated and then cleared. Are bygones bygones? "I've forgiven them [my family] - there's no point in bearing a grudge."
Four years on, he is bringing a High Court action against the shopping website for allowing his personal details to be compromised. So no more internet shopping? "No, no, no. Once bitten, twice shy," says Mr Bunce, who now sells encryption services.
"I wouldn't say that I live in the cash economy now, but I'd rather go to the bank to withdraw money to buy petrol, as you hear of card details being harvested at garages. I'm paranoid about data security. I shred everything, I never use credit cards anymore.
"Being arrested and accused of what is probably one of the worst crimes known to man, losing my job, having my reputation run through the mud, it's a living nightmare."
Marc Sigsworth is the producer of BBC One's Identity Fraud: Outnumbered.
BBC NEWS REPORT.

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