An Interview with Bennett Arron, Comedian, Writer & Real-Life Victim!
Identity theft is a serious and pervasive crime that has far-reaching consequences for individuals, families, businesses, and society as a whole. The act of stealing someone's personal information and using it for fraudulent purposes has become increasingly prevalent in the digital age. Despite the term "identity theft" being widely recognized, there is a troubling misconception among some that it is a victimless crime, as it doesn't always involve physical harm.
However, what isn’t always obvious are the devastating consequences these breaches could potentially have on the lives of thousands of people. One person who knows this only too well is BAFTA shortlisted comedian, Bennett Arron. Bennett was one of the first major victims of Identity Theft in the UK and is still suffering today as a direct result of the crime.
I was fortunate enough to spend time with Bennett conducting a fascinating interview.
Karl DiMascio: “Bennett, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Your story is both fascinating and shocking at the same time. Over 20 years ago, you became one of the first major victims of identity theft in the UK. Could you share with us the devastating consequences you faced as a result of this crime?”
Bennett Arron: “Certainly. The theft of my identity genuinely had immediate and long-lasting consequences for me and my family, the effects of which rippled through every aspect of our lives. It was nothing short of a devastating blow that turned our world upside down, leaving us grappling with the harsh reality of a financial and emotional nightmare.
The moment I discovered that someone had maliciously used my personal details to accumulate thousands of pounds in bad debts, it felt like the ground beneath me had crumbled. The impact was immediate and far-reaching, striking at the very core of my financial stability. With my credit rating plummeting to a dismal zero, my dreams of owning a home were shattered when my mortgage was abruptly cancelled. The simple privilege of obtaining a credit card or opening a bank account became an impossible feat.
Beyond the crushing financial strain, the emotional toll of the identity theft was equally overwhelming. We were left feeling violated, vulnerable, and betrayed by the imposter who had callously stolen my identity.”
Karl DiMascio: “Could you explain how the ‘imposter’ got your details in the first place?”
Bennett Arron: “Of course. Soon after I moved out of my rented flat in London, an unsettling chain of events unfolded. The new occupant who moved in after me received an invitation addressed to me, inviting me to shop from a large catalogue. To my shock, this individual shamelessly signed the invitation in my name without hesitation and sent it back.
They then brazenly indulged in multiple purchases from the catalogue, all with the sinister intention of never paying a single penny for the items. They then utilized this ill-gotten "proof of credit" to gain access to various privileges, including obtaining a mobile phone contract, which, as expected, they had no intention of honouring the payment obligations.”
Karl DiMascio: “We accept today that Identity theft is becoming more prevalent in the digital age. How did you navigate the situation at a time when it wasn't as widely recognized?”
Bennett Arron: “Indeed, during that time, identity theft was not as widely recognized as it is today. I found myself facing an uphill battle as I had to muster all my strength to convince the police and the various companies that I was, in fact, the true victim here. The process was far from swift, and it took an arduous two and a half years of relentless determination to finally clear my name and embark on the journey of recovery.”
Karl DiMascio: I find your journey from victim to advocate intriguing. Can you tell me how your experience led you to use comedy as a platform to raise awareness about identity theft?
Bennett Arron: “A few years after this happened, as some kind of cathartic exercise, I wrote a comedy show about the experience. As a result of the show, I was asked to be the guest speaker at Security/IT/Fraud Conventions in, amongst other places: Italy, Poland, South Africa and Australia. I was also asked by Channel 4 to make a documentary titled "How To Steal An Identity," where I demonstrated how easy it is to commit identity theft.”
Karl DiMascio: “How did you do that?”
Bennett Arron: “I went through someone's discarded personal information at 1 o'clock in the morning, showing how easy it was to obtain sensitive data from trash (they had thrown away bank statements and other personal information with which I opened accounts in their name). Additionally, I set up a stall in a shopping centre, where I told people I could prevent their identity theft if they shared their personal details with me. Shockingly, many people readily gave away their information, illustrating the vulnerabilities we all face. I even had one man, who having given me ALL his credit card details, turn to me as he walked away and asked if it was a scam, when I said no, he replied with “I had to ask” and continued walking away.”
Karl DiMascio: “I also understand you ‘stole’ the identity of the Home Secretary. What was the motive behind such a bold move, and how did it impact your advocacy efforts?”
Bennett Arron: “The motive was to prove that even high-profile individuals are susceptible to identity theft. While it might not have been the wisest choice, it underscored my point about the ease of identity theft. The documentary's impact was significant, earning me a BAFTA nomination and capturing the attention of Scotland Yard, who invited me in for a "chat."
Karl DiMascio: “Your advocacy efforts have clearly been impactful. We have only touched the surface today but can you tell us more about your book "HEARD THE ONE ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT?" and how it has contributed to raising awareness?”
Bennett Arron: “The book shares my personal journey as a victim and offers insights into preventing identity theft. It has been instrumental in spreading awareness about this crime and empowering individuals to protect themselves. Furthermore, my advocacy efforts led to positive changes in the Driving Licence application process, making identity verification more secure.”
Karl DiMascio: “As you travel the world speaking at conferences and expos, what is the core message you aim to convey about identity theft and its implications?”
Bennett Arron: “My mission is to emphasize that identity theft is not a victimless crime. It has profound consequences on individuals and society as a whole. Companies must take responsibility for safeguarding our information, as the aftermath of data breaches can be life-changing for individuals. It's essential to prioritize cybersecurity and take proactive measures to combat identity theft.”
Karl DiMascio: “With your background as a comedian, how do you bring a comical spin to the serious topics of fraud and identity theft during your talks?”
Bennett Arron: “Comedy allows me to engage audiences on serious topics like fraud and identity theft. By infusing humour, I can keep the audience attentive and create a memorable experience. The goal is to make them understand the severity of the issue while also encouraging them to take proactive steps to protect themselves.”
Karl DiMascio: “The impact of identity theft on individuals is often underestimated. Can you elaborate on the emotional toll it takes on victims and why it's essential to prioritize prevention?”
Bennett Arron: “Identity theft inflicts significant emotional trauma, leaving victims feeling violated, vulnerable, and helpless. Trust is shattered, and recovering from such an ordeal takes a toll on mental well-being. That's why prevention is crucial - it's about safeguarding not only financial assets but also preserving peace of mind and trust in the digital age.”
Karl DiMascio: “Your journey from being a victim to becoming an advocate is truly inspiring. What final message would you like to share with our readers about the importance of raising awareness and combating identity theft?”
Bennett Arron: “Thank you for your kind words. My final message would be to take identity theft seriously and stay informed about its risks. By educating ourselves and others, we can collectively work towards mitigating this growing threat. Awareness is the first line of defence, and together, we can protect ourselves and others from the devastating consequences of identity theft. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Bennett Arron!”
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Bennett Arron for sparing his valuable time and sharing his candid insights on the true impact of identity theft. Bennett's personal journey from being a victim to becoming a passionate advocate has not only shed light on the devastating consequences of this crime but also inspired countless individuals to take proactive measures in protecting themselves against identity theft.
His account of the consequences he faced over 20 years ago serves as a powerful reminder that identity theft is far from a victimless crime. The immediate financial ruin and the enduring struggle to clear his name showcase the real-life hardships faced by victims. His perseverance and determination in the face of adversity, during a time when identity theft was less recognized, reflect his resilience as an individual.
Bennett’s journey from being a victim of identity theft to becoming a dedicated advocate is truly inspiring. His relentless efforts to raise awareness, educate the public, and effect change have made a significant impact in the ongoing battle against identity theft. I commend Bennett for his dedication, candour, and unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others. His voice serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for individuals worldwide.
Thank you, Bennett, for your invaluable contribution to this crucial cause.