I had just ordered my second white filter coffee. I baulk at the idea of spending North of £2 on a cup of coffee, no matter what fancy name they give it. I don’t want it adulterated with syrup and I don’t want it covered in a layer of foam. That’s about as sensible as ordering a pint and asking for the bartender to make sure that the head on the beer fills half the glass. I like something nice and simple that gives me the caffeine ‘hit’ without charging like a wounded bull. This costs me 99p from a big chain coffee shop and they appear not to think any the worse of me for buying by far the cheapest coffee on the menu.
I was waiting for a contact in the same line of work to me to drop off a pack of 50 counterfeit bank debit cards. To all intents and purposes these looked like the free loyalty cards that certain coffee shops keep on their counter encouraging their customers to pick up and register themselves as loyal customers. The subject of loyalty cards has always made me laugh; how can you have a handful of loyalty cards? Loyal to all surely means loyalty to none! It’s also worth considering why these cards exist in the first place.
These cards enable the shop (usually supermarkets) to track which branch you shop in, what you buy, how much you spend, whether or not you are tempted by special offers, if your alcohol consumption appears to be increasing etc etc. For those of you who think you are smart by providing a false name - they compare and contrast whatever bank card you use to pay for your shopping and relate that as a pseudo identity in any case. These cards have to be the most effective and subtle forms of surveillance ever invented. See this if you don’t believe me https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47357292
Anyway, back to the cards I’m waiting for; The back contains the ubiquitous magnetic strip, upon which the guy I’m buying them from has recorded the details of the genuine bank customer. In the top right hand corner he writes the PIN code with a Sharpie. All I need to do is to stop off at a cashpoint machine and begin milking the account. Most banks allow you at least £300 a day from an ATM and it is surprising how many people don’t keep a regular check on their accounts. I work on the assumption that I can normally get about £2,000 per card before it gets blocked.
So I’m sitting there when my contact arrives, however, he is not alone. I’m always a bit of a stickler for ‘operational security’ so inviting someone else along to our meeting without first having agreed it with me, made me very uneasy. Our ‘guest’ appeared to be in his middle 20’s, tall, slim and wearing an ill-fitting suit. He spoke nicely without a hint of the local accent and was very self confident, offering me his hand immediately and introducing himself as ‘Justin’. I pointed out that his name was actually ‘Julian’ and that if he lied to me again I would walk out and never deal with my contact again. My contact immediately rebuked him and told him that if he wanted to work with professionals, he had to behave like one. Forgetting to remove his name badge from his lapel was simply embarrassing.
My contact explained that Julian was his sister’s son and was keen to enter the ‘family business’ of fraud. His mother and father had split up when he was very young owing to the fact that his father could not reconcile living a lavish lifestyle on the back of victims who were regularly giving away their life savings to Julian’s mother. Together they lived in a very large detached house in a nice part of town, and both drove German cars. She wore a vulgar Rolex that had been customised with the addition of numerous diamonds and had a penchant for designer clothes. Conversely, whilst at work, Julian’s suit was shiny and looked as if it had been made-to-measure, but for someone else. If the pound shop sold suits, Julian would be their poster-boy. As soon as he left work he changed into his ridiculously expensive trainers and t-shirts that cost as much as half of the average person’s entire wardrobe.
My contact explained that Julian had worked at the High Street bank (as depicted on his lapel badge) for nearly 3 years since leaving university. He has a degree in pure mathematics and had successfully enrolled in their management programme, if his annual reviews were anything to go by, he was doing very well. His career choice had nothing to do with chance; he and his mother had meticulously planned things as soon as he had applied to go to university. Once at the bank he choose to specialise in retail banking, much to the surprise of his contemporaries who all saw ‘investment banking as infinitely more sexy and much more rewarding. Nevertheless, there was method in his madness. In the last three years he had learned a huge amount; he was popular with his supervisors as he was incredibly keen to learn. He sucked up to them and was very quickly the blue-eyed boy of the branch. He schmoozed colleagues and customers alike and was always the first to put his hand in his pocket to buy the first round of drinks after work.
Whilst his job earned him a comparative pittance, he made an absolute fortune from his sideline. He had two main income streams. Julian worked very closely with his cousin William, who in turn worked for the Post Office. Julian uses one of his bank colleagues log-in to order a new debit card without the customer’s knowledge. Julian knows how long it will take to arrive and one of William’s colleagues intercepts it rather than delivering it. Julian’s mum then spanks the card until it weeps and is cancelled by the real customer.
His second income stream is even easier. He simply identifies those customers who have an account balance of more than £50,000. He records their details and feeds them to a chap who runs an investment scam. He takes 10% of any money scammed out of the customer. These are usually the elderly who are nervous about using anything like computers to do their banking and are easily taken in by a smooth talking salesman offering high returns over a short period with a money-back guarantee.
I asked Julian if he worries about being caught; He told me that the banks really don’t care if their customers are scammed or not, as long as the losses remain at an ‘acceptable level’ In business terms it just isn’t important enough to bother with. He never uses his own log-on details to harvest customer information and has even gone so far as to sow the seeds of doubt in the mind of his supervisor regarding the integrity of a colleague - just as a precaution should things ever go wrong. Whilst writing this post, I obviously ran it past my Police Officer contact. He was not in the least surprised; Apparently Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) regularly attempt to infiltrate Banks using their own people. Some are discovered and some are not……...