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article imageIdentity Theft Could Have Destroyed Simon Bunce's Life

By KJ Mullins     Apr 3, 2008 in Internet
ID fraud can ruin your life and not just your credit rating. Simon Bunce of Hampshire, UK learned the hard way when a pedophile stole his credit information.
Bunce's credit card was one of many four years ago to come up during Operation Ore, the UK's largest police hunt against online pedophiles. Bunce wasn't the one viewing the indecent materials but his life was scattered none the same.
Before the online police hunt Bunce had enjoyed online shopping thinking that his credit card information would be safe because he only used big name retailers with secure websites. He thought he was doing well to avoid the hordes of shoppers in malls only to discover that danger lurked in the matrix.
When his credit card number came up during the police sting four years ago Brune was arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children, downloading indecent images of children and incitement to distribute those images. That arrest cost him his job where he was making 120,000 pounds a year. Worse though was the disownment by close members of his family.
"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."
Without his income Bunce had to consider putting his family's home up for sale while he cleared his name. Kim, his wife trusted in her husband and stuck by him.
Bunce knew that he wasn't guilty. The computer that the police took away would clear his name without a doubt. Police computer techs though take several months to examine all the data that had been stored on a machine. Those were months that Bunce knew his reputation couldn't afford.
"I knew there'd been a fundamental mistake made and so I had to investigate it."
Identity fraud was threatening to ruin Bunce and his family's life as it does to the other thousands caught up in its web. In 2007 there were over 185,000 identified cases in the UK. That is an increase of almost 8% from 2006.
Operation Ore was able to take many suspected pedophiles off the market. The sting was based out the of the United States via a portal called Landslide. Landslide was a gateway site and central credit card handler for hundreds of websites including those that were used by sites that sold indecent images of children. Hundreds were successfully prosecuted including actor Chris Langham because of Operation Ore. Media coverage was massive.
Mr. Bunce was able to obtain a complete copy of all relevant material on his case because Landslide was based in the United States. The US Freedom of Information Act was key to his personal investigation as to how his credit card was used. Using that information he was able to contact webmasters to obtain the IP address on who was using his identity information. He discovered that his credit card details were being used by a computer in Jakarta, Indonesia. That information along with the proof that he was in fact in London on the same date and time was the beginning of proving his innocence.
"I can't be in two places at once, so somehow my data had got to the man in Indonesia."
He went on to discover that the online identity of his credit card information was named "Miranda". "Miranda" was a webmaster who hosted and produced pornographic websites and got a commission from Landslide for subscriptions to his website that were paid by credit card. "Miranda" used Bunce's information to take out a subscription to one of his websites.
In September of 2004 the police told Bunce that his case was not proceed any further. His computer, as he already knew, was clean of indecent materials.
It took him another six months though to find a job. That job paid a quarter of the salary less though than the job he had prior to the arrest.
His family is now reconciled.
He does not shop online.
"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."
He is now bringing a High Court action against Landslide for allowing his personal information to be compromised.
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