Fraudster rips off Eamonn Holmes and Stephen Nolan

Eamonn Holmes falls victim to identity theft: protect yourself

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John Cartmill, a 32-year-old from Brewerly Lane in Ballinderry, has admitted to running up thousands of pounds worth of debt on credit cards in the names of TV presenter Eamonn Holmes (pictured) and Radio Ulster presenter Stephen Nolan. It goes to show how vulnerable we all are to the threat of identity theft.

Cartmill pleaded guilty to running up £22,000 on cards in Stephen Nolan's name in February and March 2011 and a card belonging to Eamonn Holmes. According to the Mirror, the court heard that he had obtained two cards in Nolan's name and went on a spending spree in restaurants clothes shops and off licences. He made 43 transactions, spending £22,000.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that he also obtained a card in Holmes' name, and spent £17,000 buying building materials from local companies. He additionally stole the identity of Martin Sullivan - a man he had known for 10 years, and Anthony Banks - who had appeared on The Secret Millionaire programme.

He obtained Nolan's cards by contacting the banks, changing personal details and redirecting communications to a new address. He also arranged for a replacement card and for the credit limit to be increased. After the theft was discovered, he was identified by CCTV footage from the shops where he spent the money.

He had been jailed last year for similar offences and was given another two year jail term - suspended for two years. The BBC reported that Judge David McFarland told the court it was clear others were involved in the offending and accepted Cartmill was "a cog in this particular criminal machine."

Protect yourself
It goes to show that anyone can be a victim of identity theft, so it's essential to understand the risks and take precautions. There are seven useful steps:

1. Shred anything you throw away with personal details on - this includes any mail with your name and address on it.

2. Keep sensitive documents carefully. Consider installing a safe at home to protect these items in the event of a break-in, and don't carry things like your drivers' licence or passport unless you need them.

3. Think carefully about social networking - don't give away too much of your personal information, as names, addresses and dates of birth can be used alongside things like pets' and children's names to steal your identity.

4. Check your bank statement carefully. Look at all the transactions to be sure you know what they are, and if you're not sure, call to check

5. Keep an eye on your post. You should be aware when you are expecting a statement or cheque book so you know if they go astray.

6. Secure your mail. If your post comes to a shared entrance hall, consider installing a separate box outside so your mail can be delivered securely.

7. Check your credit report. You should order this reasonably regularly so you can check that debts aren't being established in your name.

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