Last Night's Viewing: Fraud Squad, ITV1
White Heat, BBC2
Friday 06 April 2012
I don't know whether you've ever examined your bank account to find an unexplained cash withdrawal from an ATM in Chigwell, but if you have you might find it comforting to know that the unpleasant shocks can travel in the other direction. In one of the more gratifying moments in Fraud Squad, two Romanian card skimmers arrived back home halfway through a police search of their flat. Alerted to their arrival outside, everyone inside suddenly hushed up, as if they were throwing a surprise birthday party. No sooner had he put his key in the door than the guest of honour found himself face down on his kitchen floor with two burly men on his back. By the look on his face, his heart and his stomach were still outside on the landing: "Fuck! You scared me, guys!" he said in aggrieved tones, as if they'd taken a prank a little too far. "I just came from work, guys, I'm a floorlayer." You are now, sir.
It wasn't a huge surprise to the detectives to find that their targets were Romanian. "Ninety two percent of all ATM fraud is committed by Romanian nationals," a senior police officer had explained earlier, with slightly surprising exactitude. And quite a high percentage of those Romanians, it seems, come from one particular area of the country, which has devoted itself to the task of sliding imperceptibly in between us and our bank balances by means of some impressively ingenious devices. They make traps for your money, traps for your cards and even entirely false fronts for the entire cash machine, so that they can surreptitiously copy the details on your card and video the PIN you input. When you see a card-slot that looks mangled and glue-smeared it's usually a sign that skimmers have been rumbled, but don't get complacent. Given the perpetual arms race between fraudsters and banks, it surely won't be long before they mock up an ATM to look exactly as it might if a skimmer had already been detected and clumsily removed.
It seems to pay well, judging from the fetching snapshots one skimmer had on his phone when he was caught, showing his own baby gurgling happily on a carpet of twenty-pound notes. But most of the cash is out of the country before you can say, "I never bought petrol on the A11!" And, as fun as it was to watch the little cogs getting a bit of comeuppance, most of those involved acknowledged that they would almost immediately be replaced by a new foot soldier, while the big cogs counted their money and added another floor to their Romanian villa. Best treated as an extended public-service announcement; always cover the keypad when entering your PIN.
We've reached 1982 in White Heat, which means Spandau Ballet on the radio and Ian McDonald on the television, reading out Falklands war press releases at dictation speed. The young gay Indian one has grown up to be Ramon Tikaram, which is a bit of a result for him, since he appears to have aged at half the rate of everyone else in the original flat share, and Charlotte and Lilly (the older versions) are still biting chunks out of each other every time they pass. This week's shameless set piece featured Greenham Common, where Charlotte arrived in the nick of time to rescue her distracted mother from a police raid. And Jack effortlessly continued to hog the limelight, this time with his heroin addiction. When the drama stops for long enough to get its breath it can begin to engage and move you. But I suspect it's just too overstaffed to really work. I may look in next week to see who it is that's in the crematorium urn and what it is that's in the safe, but after five episodes, shouldn't it be the characters you care about, not the mystery boxes?
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