TV star publishes bank details in anti-privacy editorial, gets ripped off

Jeremy Clarkson, a presenter for Top Gear on British TV, wrote a newspaper editorial that accused privacy activists of being hysterical over giant data-leaks (such as the British government repeatedly losing CDs bearing the financial details for 25 million households). To prove that identity theft wasn't a big deal, he included his bank account details in the article.

Whereupon someone promptly began making fraudulent withdrawals from his account.

Clarkson, 47, writing in his column in the Sunday Times, decried the furore last year after CDs disappeared containing the banking details of 7 million families.

The loss led to fears of mass identity theft with people's bank accounts open to internet scams.

At the time he wrote: "I have never known such a palaver about nothing. The fact is we happily hand over cheques to all sorts of unsavoury people all day long without a moment's thought. We have nothing to fear."

However, yesterday he told readers he had opened his bank statement to find a direct debit had been set up in his name and £500 taken out of his account.

"The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again," he said. "I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake."


(Image: crop from Books, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from William Hook's Flickr stream)


  1. There needs to be a more descriptive term for such people than ‘naysayer’… bad example, nincompoop, dufus, deranged, irresponsible for starters.

    But still he’s a maverick and oh-so-cool for not joining in the ‘hysteria’.

    Isn’t he??

    Let’s have more belittling and denial of the public’s grave and well-founded concerns. I haven’t had my full helping yet.

  2. I just want to make sure I have this right–

    This is no longer coincidence and crosses over into irony, right?

  3. It is much funnier if you note that
    “his details were used to set up a £500 direct debit payable from his account to the British Diabetic Association.”

    Now that’s funny. The prankster who did this set it up so Clarkson can’t easily recover his funds since they went to charity (in addition to the Data Protection Act which supposedly prevents the bank from finding out–though I have my doubts about that…)

  4. This story isn’t all it seems.

    Its a normal bank to bank direct debit only allowing funds to be transferred to known organisations, there is a bank guarantee attached to it which means this transaction can be reversed in seconds.

    annoying yes, but we are not talking about an anonymous 3rd party transferring money.

    Hopefully a few more people have now realized that Clarkson is a dribbling publicity whore, and not the second coming.

  5. Clarkson is an arrogant loudmouthed dickhead, long overdue for a dose of comeuppance. This had me LOL – and he should think himself very lucky he got off so lightly.

  6. You should hear this asshat on the issue of climate change.

    Clarkson proved an idiot. Data loss scandal back in the papers. Money to diabetes charity. Perfect!

  7. Love it! This pommie prick is always opining on stuff he knows little about. And is prone to racist remarks that he tries to pass off as “humour”. So eat shit and die Clarkson.

  8. Wow, such a lot of hate for the presenter of the world’s most popular (and probably also most watched) car program.
    Yes, he is a loudmouth, and yes he is misguided at some parts. But wow, I never knew people could hate some other person that much!

    It’s an ironic stunt indeed, what happened to him. And it’s certainly good to see that he has changed his tune a little on this subject.
    But I don’t think that is a cause to pour out this much bile over him.
    If you don’t agree with his views, then either don’t read his columns, or do try to educate him (if you are in the capacity to do so).
    Don’t spout your nastiness in some anonymous forum about how absolutely awful he is as a person when you don’t even know him personally. After all, it could all be just an act.

  9. this highlights more the problem with direct debits that with clarkson.

    this isn’t someone stealing his money, he could have it all reversed in seconds as said above. and companies have to be pre-approved to be able to use direct debits… this doesn’t stop it being a problem for anyone who’s phone company has screwed up their bill and instantly withdrawn loads of money from your account.

    clarkson is playing a character,a rather odious one at times.. and doing very well out of it. don’t believe the hype.

  10. #2: “This is no longer coincidence and crosses over into irony, right?”

    No, it’s certainly not irony. It may be “just deserts”, a fitting punishment, funny, appropriate, incongruous, surprising, or all of the above. But it’s not ironic.

    Ask yourself: where is the double meaning?

  11. Heh. I watch Top Gear mainly for the cars, and I enjoy some of the presenters. Last night I watched Jeremy drive all the way to the North Pole and commenting that as far as he could see there’s no evidence there of global warming (a day after nearly losing the truck through rather thin sheet ice.)

    The thing I really look forward to is the ‘Jeremy Clarkson Swears for Good Reason Edition,’ followed by the ‘Jeremy Clarkson Tribute Special.’ Funnily enough, I used to watch the Crocodile Hunter for exactly the same reason.

  12. As an aside, does the photographer of that image have the right to assign a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence to it? As it’s a derivative of another photographer’s work?

  13. I’m just here to say Clarkson is awesome and probably doesn’t take himself as seriously as many of you seem to think he does.

  14. Hey, he said “I was wrong.”. That’s rare enough in any public figure that it’s worth applauding. Well done him.

  15. #5 “…there is a bank guarantee attached to it which means this transaction can be reversed in seconds.”

    Actually their was a report that there was problems with the system: (Can also watch video on right)

    I even saw a similar report on another news program that day suggesting sometimes the people processing the DDs were making judgement calls and letting payments go through when they thought people were “morally” (they used that word) entitled to the money rather than following the strict rules.

  16. The mistake JC made was not the one he admitted to. Once the £500 was gone he should have said “I’m still right – look I can get the £500 back in seconds, it is not my problem, it is the bank’s, and as I originally said, anyone with one of my cheques could have done the same thing. The DPA is a smokescreen – a crime (fraud) has been committed and the DPA allows data to be revealed for preventing or detecting crime. I am going to report this to the police and ask them to find the culprit, which the DPA will not prevent them doing (though other things might). So my original point that the fuss about the exposure due to loss of data was a lot of palaver still stands”

    That’s what he should have said. His mistake was not saying it.

    (Sets cat among pigeons and stands back awaiting fur and feathers to fly)

  17. #10: The reason we’re going all nuts about this is that data protection is a hot button issue for the techie community. To deny that data protection is necessary is like saying we can hold our breath and get oxygen through osmosis.

    For someone with as wide (and, I guess, untechie) an audience as Clarkson to deny that data protection is necessary isn’t just misguided, it’s downright evil.

    Hence the hate, and the jubilation when he gets smacked.

  18. Skep: It is much funnier if you note that “his details were used to set up a £500 direct debit payable from his account to the British Diabetic Association.”

    So, “Revenge is Sweet”? I believe the word we’re looking for here isn’t ironic, but “poetic”.

  19. #13: There doesn’t need to be a ‘double meaning’ to constitute irony- it could be argued that this is an example of situational irony.

    Nice to see ‘just deserts’ spelt correctly, though.

  20. Oh, sweet, sweet Karma. There’s nothing better than watching the universe deliver a boomerang to an especially deserving soul.

  21. What a surprise. Isn’t Jeremy Clarkson the same douche bag that drove around Arkansas with “Hillary 4 President” and “NASCAR Sucks” written on his car and feigned surprise that the locals would get upset about such signs? Of coarse Jeremy Clarkson hasn’t tried driving his car near an English football match letting out with “Chelsea Sucks” or whatever written on his car…I’m sure football hooligans would sit down for a spot of tea with him to try to discuss the error of his ways because they are so much more civilized than those trashy Americans.

  22. WooHoo! I never understood why this obnoxious moron was so popular in the first place. Pity they didn’t empty the account altogether.

  23. @ 28, It was actually Alabama. Another slogan was Man Love Rules. But he made up for it by donating the three old derelict cars that they bought for under $1000. to victims of hurricane Katrina. What a saint. He then claimed that they were sued for misrepresentation and advised the viewers to “never go to America”.
    I love Top Gear, it’s the best car show on TV by far, but as they say, Clarckson is a pillock.

  24. A major difference in severity here- 7 million accounts, the staggering majority of which will never be compromised, distributed discretely to a handful of black hat types, or one account distributed to the entire newspaper’s readership and compromised by one grey hat with a conscience. This is still not something to panic over. It’s simply good for a belly laugh. I’m not familiar with the guy but he sounds like someone who has convinced himself that his expertise magically translates to everything.

    Clearly someone was trying to make a point, and yes it is necessary to protect data, but Mr. Clarkson demonstrates rule #1 for data protection: most data breaches occur due to silly practices by end users. Social engineering and bubble headed end users are probably responsible for most problems.

    I have no data to verify that since I’m just waking up, but I am a firm believer (ask any DRM software engineer) that if a lock is conceivable so is the key, or a way to nick it from someone else.

    I do have to say, these sort of colossal account data breaches happen far too often. I get spam mail now because of a subscription account that became compromised- legal notifications and all. I’m grateful it’s no worse than that.

    Personally, I suspect I have less to fear from black hat hackers than I do from Corporate America- think Enron or Halliburton. Robber barons all.

  25. I disagree with 95% of everything that comes out of Clarkson’s mouth, but I don’t feel the need to come to a blog and spew bile because of it. Oddly enough, I can actually disagree with someone without becoming overwhelmed by screaming hatred.

    A lot of folks on the other side of the fence are just as loud and obnoxious as he can be – being a leftie does not automatically make you Not A Jerk.

  26. Lord, please let Stephen Fry mention this in his next “Dork Talk” column. Or in the next season of QI. Or let it be used as a quip in a future episode of House.

  27. I love Top Gear, but let us not forget, this is the same man who thinks global warming and other ideas like “low gas mileage” are for panzies. Karma baby!!

  28. As much as I think Clarkson is a loudmouthed idiot who got what he deserved with this stunt, I think this whole thing is great for several reasons. First, this proves that there is a major issue when peoples’ bank account information is lost. Imagine if this was an ordinary parent on benefits whose bank account was emptied just before rent was due – they may be entitled to get money back but it would cause no end of problems for them in the meantime. Hopefully this extra publicity will make people more vigilant with their data (and other peoples’).

    However, I have to give Clarkson major kudos here. He literally put his money where his mouth was, a rare thing nowadays. When he was proven wrong, he’s basically shrugged and said “yeah, you got me. I was wrong”. Can you imagine any other public figure who would do that without trying to get revenge or deny the story or make some other public display trying to pretend they weren’t at fault? I can’t.

  29. Ceruleanshipper, I don’t know how you’re going to go there. I’ve seen both Mr Fry’s appearance on Top Gear and Mr Clarkson’s numerous appearances on QI, and they seem quite chummy. I’m aware it’s only TV, but Clarkson is characteristically vocal about public figures he dislikes. Piers Morgan, for example :-)

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