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Security begins at home... and ends up in someone else’s

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Something for the Weekend, Sir? Dear Mr Dabbs. Thank you for your business. Please see invoice enclosed.

This doesn’t bode well: I am not the sort of person who is able to make private purchases on account. As much as I’d love to swan into a shop, point at various things and drawl “Send them over, will you, darlings?” as I saunter off into a waiting limo, retailers don’t seem to like me doing it.

Rather, they eye me warily as soon as I enter their premises. Their fingers move instinctively to the panic button under the counter and the store detective trails me everywhere with the enthusiasm of an Apache scout and the subtlety of a nightclub bouncer. If I fail to bring anything to the counter within two minutes, a whispered phone call is made, other customers move silently to the exits and I find myself stranded on the shop floor as the noise of barking dogs and an approaching helicopter grows ever louder.

Steady on, security person. I am just browsing...

I do not enjoy shopping. Going shopping is shit.

So it is with a little surprise that I am reading a letter containing a bill for half a dozen iPhones. Apparently I walked into a high street mobile phone shop a few weeks ago, bought the handsets on account and walked off with the lot under my arm. And now the invoice has turned up.

One call to customer services sorts it out without argument, as it always does. I have to put up with one of these scams every 18 months or so, and I’m getting used to the routine. The first time it happened, however, I was baffled how the scammer managed to associate his naughtiness with my name and address. According to customer services, he must have been in possession of hacked identity documents.

Showing ID, as anyone working in retail security will tell you, is irrelevant. Proof of identity and proof of payment are not the same thing at all. It is not possible to stride into a mobile phone shop, demand half a dozen iPhones and shuffle off without paying, even if I show a driving licence with a photo of the Queen on it.

No, all that has happened is that a disgruntled or dodgy employee at the mobile phone shop or one of his mates has walked away with armfuls of handsets, leaving a misleading trail of customer names randomly nabbed from the database to throw the scent before scarpering. It could be the shop assistant, the work experience kid, the delivery man, anyone.

Basically, it’s all too tempting. The goods and the customer database are just sitting there, pleading to be raided. Just borrow the key to each – or easier still, nick them – and you’re away.

The scam may not even be that smart. Every time I take out a phone contract with a new provider, I am handed a cheap ballpoint pen and ordered to complete a complicated paper form while the shop assistant toddles off to photocopy my passport and electricity bill. Who needs to hack into a database of customer addresses when the original paper versions are already kicking about the shop in various unmonitored filing cabinets and in-trays? Forget name and password, these sheets of triplicate contain my bank and credit card details, inside leg measurement and DNA samples.

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