'I had no reason to be suspicious', says victim of top blagging scam

 

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The Independent Online

One of the tabloids' favourite "blagging" techniques, known as the "Royal Mail" scam, has been exposed in detail to the Leveson Inquiry.

The scam has been revealed by a witness known only as HJK, whose identity is protected by an anonymity order. The witness gave evidence away from public view with the testimony published with redactions yesterday.

The scam was deployed to find out exactly where HJK lived. The phone number of the witness was known. But in an effort to find out whether HJK was involved in a relationship with a "well-known individual" that began in 2006, an address was needed.

The testimony reads: "I received a telephone call on my mobile phone from someone stating that they were from the Royal Mail. The caller explained that he wished to deliver a package where the label had been ripped off leaving no address and that all that was left on the package was my mobile number. Although it subsequently occurred to me as being very strange that a package would have a mobile number on it, I had no reason to be suspicious at the time."

A host of high-profile celebrities told Lord Leveson last week about emotional trauma they suffered from press intrusion and the fallout from hacking. But the key to finding a celebrity or someone close to them is knowing where they live. "Blagging" solves that. The day after the mail scam, HJK was door-stepped at 9am. There was no polite introduction. A journalist asked: "Are you in a relationship with X?" The assumption was that X lived with HJK.

Both HJK and partner began living in fear about what the exposé would mean. Both resolved they should no longer see each other. HJK was offered an "arrangement" to spill details about the relationship.

The journalist called to say a story was being prepared. It turned out that another story dominated that week's headlines and nothing appeared but the threat of a story created some professional upheaval. Eventually, HJK learnt that much of the detail had come from owning a mobile phone. Hackers had listened to messages.

Similar versions of this story were offered by other Leveson witnesses last week. Hacking had taken place, but how and when came much later.

Although HJK was told in 2006 by a mobile provider that "security had been compromised", and informed that details would be passed to the police, nothing further was revealed until 2010.

Leveson selected line-up for next week

Monday

Charlotte Church: Phones of the singer's family were hacked by News of The World. Her mother attempted suicide before a story about her husband's infidelity.

Anne Diamond: Former TV-am presenter asked Rupert Murdoch why his newspapers ruined lives. The result, she claims, was persecution.

Ian Hurst: Ex-Army intelligence officer's emails were allegedly hacked by a NOTW investigator looking into an IRA informer.

Chris Jefferies: Joanna Yeates' landlord successfully sued newspapers for portraying him as prime suspect in the murder case.

Tuesday

Nick Davies: Journalist who broke the hacking scandal may be asked how he got the story. He won't tell.

Paul McMullan: Ex-NOTW journalist told Hugh Grant all staff knew of hacking.

Wednesday

Alastair Campbell: The role of Tony Blair's spin chief came under the media microscope over Iraq.

Thursday

Richard Thomas: The ex-Information Commissioner led a probe that included media misuse of Police National Computer database.