The phone, the fraudster and my £1,500 close call at my farm’s post box - Sarah Todd

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Columnist Sarah Todd describes how she was the victim of a mobile phone fraud.

Yes, that’s correct. The house telephone; a number that starts with 01 and that cuts out if you step outside the back door.

The other week a fraudster ordered a £1,500 state-of-the-art mobile phone in this correspondent’s name.

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The irony is beyond belief. If there ever was a person who wouldn’t own a fancy ‘phone, it’s yours truly.

Columnist Sarah Todd.

Teenage children have to be drafted in to retrieve messages and decipher texts. Nobody could have less interest; it’s just a device to ask The Husband what he wants for tea and the very occasional work call.

It all started when there was a text message from a delivery company confirming they would be dropping off a parcel later in the day.

Not having ordered anything, it was forgotten about as something for another member of the family.

An 18 year-old daughter means an endless supply of online clothes deliveries and there are plenty of parts arriving in parcels for her father’s old car.

Legendary racehourse trianer Sir Henry Cecil, pictured with his great champion Frankel, never carried a mobile phone.

An hour or so later, the dog yaps as there’s a knock on the door. The courier says: “Ah yes, I knew the woman who said she was you wasn’t...”

He spoke about never forgetting a face and said he’d always remembered this householder in her dressing gown feeding the hens.

Then he got to the point. He had a mobile phone to deliver.

But there had been an imposter waiting at the end of our lane. She had flagged him down and asked him to hand over the parcel. He’d said that he was only allowed to make the delivery at the address; so could she follow him up the lane to the house?

No she said, her son was asleep in the car and she was on her way out. Surely he could just pass it over. Thankfully, the driver made his excuses and drove up to the house.

“But I haven’t ordered a phone,” I said, thinking of the battered brick languishing in a coat pocket of dog biscuits.

The delivery driver explained that it would be a scam and advised me to sign ‘‘delivery declined’’ and get in touch with the police.

Hang on a minute.

Some emails had come through at about 11pm the night before – dismissed as junk – from the communications company O2. They seemed to be confirming a contract to take out a credit agreement on a £1,500 gold-coloured phone.

Could anything be more obscene than a phone costing £1,500? Coming as this fraud did, at a time when the recent D-Day commemorations were still in the news, it seemed to symbolise the vile credit-card fuelled consumerism that is such a scourge on our society.

If somebody had stolen £1,500 from my bank account that would be one thing, but to put my name to something as crass as a four-figure gold phone is just devastating.

When the children were younger, phones were a regular topic of conversation. There would always be one of them taking some stick for either a) not having a phone at all or b) not having the latest model.

“If they don’t want to be friends with you because
you’ve got an old phone then they’re not worth bothering with” was a sentence that followed their hunched shoulders out of the door on many a morning.

A member of O2’s fraud department later explained 
that the crime was more likely than not committed by somebody abroad. They then pay a local middle man – or in this case woman – to intercept the parcel.

The likelihood of a large distance in miles between me and whoever planned this was a relief. It meant the woman at the lane end was probably just an accessory; rather than a criminal mastermind. Realising she had red hair was spooky. Had she used a hair dye kit? Had she stolen my identity?

A sad result is that our postbox – a little metal bin - has been removed from the gateway.

Having had a big dog, it always seemed a bit much to expect the postman to open the gate and walk up to the house.

Far better to simply leave the post in the bin. But in the wee small hours of the other morning, it sadly struck that we no longer live in a world where it is safe to leave unopened letters on a rural lane.

In an age where the average person spends more than four hours a day on their phone and a quarter of people spend more on monthly phone bills than they do on their food shopping, there’s only one way for this correspondent to go…

As the late racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil, who would never use a mobile, said: “If there is a problem I can use a proper telephone.”

He would also appreciate the sentiment that for £1,500 I’d rather have a leg in a horse than have my leg lifted over a blessed mobile phone.

Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.