Protecting yourself

Identity theft led to pedophile accusation

Emily Crone

It’s bad enough when someone steals your credit card number and buys a big screen TV or applies for additional credit cards. What’s worse is when someone commits crime in your name — especially when it involves child pornography. BBC reports that Simon Bunce, a British man with a six-figure salary and respectable home life, was falsely branded a pedophile after his credit card information was stolen.

A kiddie-porn crackdown
Bunce shopped online frequently, careful to make purchases only at sites of well-known retailers with secure Web sites. Even so, someone managed to steal his credit card numbers and use them to download child pornography. Four years ago, Bunce was investigated in Operation Ore, a U.K. police hunt for online pedophiles. The operation was “a massive British online kiddie-porn crackdown in 2003 that itself grew out of Operation Avalanche, an earlier American bust which began with a 1999 raid on Landslide Productions, a Texas mom-and-pop operation that handled credit card transactions for porn Web sites,” Fox news reports.

Fox says most of Landslide’s customers were legal, though some were selling child pornography. American law enforcement gave U.K. police a list of more than 7,000 credit card numbers from Great Britain credit cards that were allegedly used to buy the pornography. Many British citizens, both innocent and guilty, became part of the investigation, including The Who’s Pete Townshend and Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja. In many instances, those people’s credit card information had been stolen and the pornography bought without their knowledge, Fox reports.

Proving innocence
Bunce was arrested. Many of his belongings, including his computer and data storage devices from both home and work, were confiscated, and took several months to be examined. Bunce’s employer fired him and family members disowned him.  All the while, Bunce knew he was innocent, but nobody except his wife believed him.

Using the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and a list of IP addresses, Bunce was able to discover that the computer that entered his information was located in Jakarta, Indonesia, during a time when he could prove he was using a credit card with the same numbers at a London eatery.

The police finally told Bunce they had not found indecent information and that it appeared he wasn’t the one who used his credit card information on Landslide. He was eventually able to reconcile with his family. It took six months to find a new job, though it paid a quarter of what he earned before the incident.

Even though four years has passed, Bunce is now bringing court action against the popular retail Web site (though he will not name which one) for not safeguarding his information. He now sells encryption services.

“I wouldn’t say that I live in the cash economy now, but I’d rather go to the bank to withdraw money to buy petrol, as you hear of card details being harvested at garages,” Bunce told BBC. “I’m paranoid about data security. I shred everything, I never use credit cards anymore. Being arrested and accused of what is probably one of the worst crimes known to man, losing my job, having my reputation run through the mud, it’s a living nightmare.”

If your financial information has been lost or stolen, please visit our PrivacyWise section and learn how to resolve fraud and identity theft. Before it happens, learn how to protect yourself.

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  • Kirsten

    I hope Mr. Bunce is also pursuing a lawsuit against his former employer.

  • To Mr. Bunce and his family… God bless you for all you have been through. My husband, myself and our children have experienced similar issues because of identity theft. Unfortunately, law enforcement has not assisted us thus far which is complicating the long term effects. Those who hurt you and your family must be held to the highest levels of accountability. It takes a lifetime to build one’s career and reputation and in a very short time, identity theft destroys it all. We pray that vindication will eventually arrive… be thankful that law enforcement accused you of a crime instead of forcing you to live UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF SUSPICION, not knowing why family, friends and colleagues avoid you at all costs. May you all find peace.