Top Gear presenter and Sunday Times columnist Jeremy Clarkson has fallen victim to a scam after publishing his bank details in a newspaper column arguing that the scandal of lost CDs containing the personal data of millions of Britons as a “storm in a teacup”.
Clarkson had printed his own bank details in a newspaper to hammer home the point that his money was still safe and the spectre of identity theft a sham. He also gave instructions on how to find his address on the electoral roll and details about the car he drives.
However, in a rare moment of humility, Clarkson has now revealed he has lost at least £500 – after an unidentified reader copied his details to set up a £500 direct debit payable from his account to the British Diabetic Association. The charity is one of many organisations which does not need a signature to set up a direct debit.
Writing in his column in the Sunday Times, Clarkson decried the furore last year after CDs disappeared with the banking details of seven million people.
“Back in November, the Government lost two computer discs containing half the population’s bank details,” he said. “Everyone worked themselves into a right old lather about the mistake but I argued we should all calm down because the details in question are to be found on every cheque we hand out every day to every Tom, Dick and cash and carry.
“To hammer the point home I even printed my own bank account number and sort code. And guess what? I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account.
“The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again. I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.”
The discs had been lost by HM Revenue and Customs, containing the personal details of 25 million Britons and the bank details of seven million claiming child benefit. More than 30 detectives from Scotland Yard were put on the case to track the discs down. They have still not been found.
At the time Clarkson wrote in his column: t. The fact is we happily hand over cheques to all sorts of unsavoury people all day long without a moment’s thought. We have nothing to fear.”
A chastened Clarkson has now changed his tune. On Sunday he said: “Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”