Identity Fraud: Why I changed From Barry Viniker To Ben Royston
Why Did I Change my name?
Many people ask me why I changed my name from Barry Viniker to Ben Royston. The answer is simple: I suffered repetitive bouts of identity fraud. There was nothing sinister, nothing that I was running away from, no family feud and nothing worthy of gossip. It was a simple way to help prove the identity fraud because the type of identity fraud I suffered from was and continues to be of a repetitive nature.
Why Did I Choose The Name Ben Royston?
That one is simple to answer too. I took the name of my Grandfather, a great man, a war hero, an inspiration and someone that I still miss terribly after more than 20 years. Because he only had one child, a girl, the family name died out. I wanted to bring it back and do something in his name to continue his legacy.
Did The Name Change Help Fight Identity Fraud?
Yes. In the last two bouts of identity fraud, it was far easier to prove my innocence and correct my credit references.
Has Identity Fraud Damaged My Life?
Most definitely. Because the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom defines the banks and lenders as the victim of identity fraud crime, there is very little I can do to try to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Banks suffer millions of fraud attempts every year. They assign billion pound contingency funds to write off losses. It is not in their financial interest to attempt to find and prosecute or spend man hours investigating with the police, so they do not usually report the crimes carried out in the names of innocent parties. As a result, the onus is on me to research my credit reports with Experian, Call Credit and Equifax, look for new credit searches, contact those organisations, get through to their fraud departments and report the attempts as fraudulent.
I then had to register with a credit reference agency to repair my credit score and liaise where possible with any companies approached in my name. This costs me over £200 per year. A cost I have to pay and cannot reclaim from anywhere despite playing no part in the cause of the problem. I have to write to all credit lenders, proving my own identity, asking them to mark the application for credit as fraudulent and for their entries on my credit report to be removed.
The whole process can take up to a month of full time action, meaning I cannot continue to work, gain credit, apply for loans, phone contracts, insurance or anything most people take for granted. The levels of stress it causes are astonishing and caused health issues from stress and depression the second and third time the attacks began.
By changing my name, it was in effect a complete rebrand for my life. Many people question the reasons for the name change and it created trust issues. People are quick to make assumptions that you might have been in trouble with the police, be avoiding creditors or tax, have committed a crime or have a skeleton in your closet that you are running away from. No-one guesses that actually it is because you are a victim rather than a perpetrator.
It has meant the loss of work because my reputation as a Eurovision Song Contest expert, Author, Journalist and Copywriter is in my former name. It is hard to show that someone with a different name is actually myself, and to say that it was an alias would be untrue.
What Would I Suggest To Those That Suffer Identity Fraud?
Start with a call to Action Fraud. Go to the police and demand a meeting with their Chief Fraud Investigating Officer. Because the crime is against the banks and lenders rather than you, insist that you want a crime number anyway. This will help the Credit Reference Agencies remove fraudulent entries on your credit report faster. I would also advise that you tell a close support network of people that can help support you through the stressful, time consuming and often depressingly repetitive actions you will need to take in repairing your credit rating. You should tell your bank and ask if you can have a contingency loan in place should you need credit before the problem is resolved or need time off of work to sort out your Identity Theft or Identity Fraud problem.