Peter York on ads

You don't expect to get robbed by your own bank
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The Independent Online

They used to do literary novels about identity confusion. But now it's moved from a big idea to a commonplace experience – someone spending your money, or siphoning it off. Someone who can pass as you because he's got the co-ordinates. I've been done and I can see how the experience could be re-cast as drama. I'd be played by Robson Green, and the thief would have to be miles more interesting than mine was. It was actually a group, an inside job at a bank. They'd hit on something like 20 tolerably flush dormant deposit accounts over a week and faked it to look as if their owners had made big transfers. Ones that probably wouldn't emerge for months.

But, unusually, I withdrew money from the piggy bank to pay builders. And the revised statement they gave me then didn't make any sense at all. The telephone dialogues with the bank were weird. It took a while for them to tell me, accusingly, that I'd forgotten I'd made an large telegraphic transfer. Then I had to chase down the details. The answers were so implausible – a branch nowhere near anywhere I ever went – that I couldn't imagine how it ever got signed off by a manager. There'd just have to be alarm bells (there weren't, of course, because it was an inside job).

After the bank had repaid the money, I started thinking what the fake me looked like. Then I wondered, since I'd ostensibly committed a felony against myself, whether I'd get penalised. That was harder to check out. I was looking out for the next daring raid, checking every account and every account man, getting them to be hyper-careful.

What the bank wouldn't acknowledge then (they have now) was that it was an inside job, not anything remotely novelistic. The inside job story isn't exactly one the banks and credit card issuers are going to lead on in their advertising. But I still recognise something in the new Capital One commercial. There's a middle-aged, middle-class woman trying to convince her bank manager that the payments on her statement – the payees rather – are deeply unlikely. In my case it'd been pointing out to the bank voices on the telephone that my payee, the transfer bank and the holiday tax haven were all deeply dodgy-sounding.

The Capital One woman is sitting across from her bank manager, setting out the absurd things she's supposed to have paid for while the bank manager listens unmoved. Capital One apparently has the answer, though it isn't clear to the innocent eye how its protection worked. But now identity problems have gone seriously mass what's the betting nobody'll write a literary novel about them ever again?

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