back to article Bus spotter admits £11k database fees fraud

A Suffolk man has admitted to defrauding his employer of £11,000 to indulge his pastime of bus-spotting. Steven Curl, 45, ran up a bill of £10,983 in credit check fees over two years while working at insurance giant AXA, Ipswich Crown Court was told. The East Anglian Daily Times reports that the charabanc fanatic exploited his …

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Bronze badge

What a T3$t

Plane spotters look down on train spotters, and they on bus spotters and so on to Eddie Spotters.

One suspects he got carried away with being a big wheel, and wanted to be the first to report ownership changes to Bus magazine, yes there is one, rather than just take it for granted that the ownership details written on the side of the bus tell you all you need to know.

How do I know, ah well when I was 14 it seemed a better past time than sniffing glue and hanging around the precinct abusing old age pensioners, then I discovered beer and sex.

Oh and we all anorak for England in something, dear reader, remember that when you are munching your pizza during a 24 hour Call of Duty session.

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Paris Hilton

While we're on the subject of plane spotters.

What's the latest Vulture One news?

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Bronze badge

And in many other parts of the world...

...they are known as just plain nuts.

Obsession: a tragic thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Difference

There's a difference between a hobby and an obsession...

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Coat

Is it...

...hobby would be a really crape name for a perfume?

I know, I'll get my coat...

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Anonymous Coward

Data Protection

Fraud is one thing, but data protection is another. He defrauded his employer which is fair enough, but I'm pretty sure this would also be a breach of the data protection act. In the case of the data protection act it is not just the employee who comitted the breach who is liable, but also the employer. They clearly did not have controls in place to prevent this breach so they should be prosecuted for not having the controls.

How about fining them something like £11K?

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FAIL

Hardly!

Please explain how the Data Protection Act applies in this case?

The Act makes "provision for the regulation of the processing of information relating to individuals". It defines “personal data” as meaning "data which relate to a living individual".

This guy was looking up the registration numbers of buses to find out which Companies owned them. Who do you suggest the "living individuals" were - the buses or the Companies?

The Data Protection Act is a far from perfect piece of legislation and is badly in need of a radical overhaul, but the fact remains that its biggest problem is that people who don't understand what it is about cite it in totally inappropriate circumstances.

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Paris Hilton

Why protect vehicle ownership info?

In Sweden, you can fax or even text a vehicle registration number to the Swedish Traffic Authority and they text you back the ownership details for free within a minute or so. Very handy when buying a car second hand.

As a pedestrian and cyclist, I appreciate this service. It reminds vehicle owners that if they deploy their vehicle in an irresponsible, inconsiderate, aggressive or threatening manner, they can be easily traced by anyone with access to a mobile phone.

As a cyclist who occasionally incurs the wrath of psychopathic motorists for taking up space and delaying them by a few seconds in their race to the next red light, I've found that if I pretend to photograph their reg. number on my mobile phone (it has no camera), it always has a very calming effect on them as their higher brain functions kick in and they realise the implications. After all, you know what they say about revenge...

To sum up, I believe vehicle ownership info should be in the public domain - for everyone's safety.

The bus spotter should be let off with a slap on the wrists (at most).

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Bikes

Which is exactly why all bikes should have to display number plates in the same way as cars, trucks and busses - both front and rear, (and have proper insurance too.)

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Anonymous Coward

Personal Data

Of course this concerns personal data, the guy was using the DVLA database to look up registered keeper. I wouldn't be surpised if at least one of the vehicles he did a look up on had a name against it rather than just a company name. But that's not the major point, his company were allowing him uncontrolled access to the DVLA database which does contain an awful lot of personal information. As such they breached the act.

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Welcome

Don't stop with cyclists...

Roller skaters, electric chair users, skateboarders and joggers also pose a significant risk to the general public by moving faster than walking speed.

Let's put number plates on all of them, make them pay insurance AND road tax PLUS fit speed limiters, introduce mandatory GPS tracking, compulsory licenses, more police, tougher sentences and then charge them for it.

Because when you think about it, cyclists are just as dangerous as motorised vehicles, spewing out farts and ringing their bells, parking their bikes everywhere, constantly intimidating members of the general public and other road users, running red lights, mounting the pavement and generally making everyone's life a complete and utter misery whilst wrecking the British economy by not visiting our of town shopping centres nearly enough and scaring away Japanese tourists.

Plus (of course) the potential for new spotter obsessions - YAY!

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Flame

In Hong Kong, bus spotters are known as "bus fans", while in the US they are known as "bus nuts".

Whereas in the UK, they're just known as "sad bastards with no life".

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Gav
Boffin

IT Nerds > Bus Nerds

Isn't it always comforting to know there's always someone you can look down on, no matter how sad your own life may be, or may be regarded?

Each to their own. In the scale of things I'd say bus spotting is better than being couch-bound victim glued to the latest TV/Football/Celeb drama-fodder, as millions are. At least it's got some basis in real life and getting you out the house.

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MJI
Silver badge

Celeb Nerds

Thanks for reminding me about these - it give bus spotters someone to take the wee out of.

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FAIL

Why do you need to check the vehicle ownership via DVLA?

Surely the company name on the side of each one is a bit of a giveaway...

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No title

I'm assuming given the massive amount of deregulation in public transport, the owner might not always be the operator. Not sure why this would matter but still, each to their own.

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Coffee/keyboard

LOL

I don't suppose he thought of that.

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Bronze badge

DPA issues

Any pretence that there is any security at all over where a vehicle is registered is shot to pieces by this sort of stuff (which is why, of course, the so many TV programs blurr the numberplates of celebrities and other individuals they feature. Given what mus be tend, if not hundreds of thousands of people that can access this sort of information, then it's almost becoming public data.

This sort of breach is far more important than the cost to the company he worked for. I don't suppose anybody much cares for the privacy of bus companies, but it could as easily have been personal transport.

I also wonder what other sort of personal information the government is prepare to sell to those with a "legitemate interest"?

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@ DPA issues

"I also wonder what other sort of personal information the government is prepare to sell to those with a "legitemate interest"?"

VERY GOOD POINT

When I worked for an insurance company in Australia we were required by law to obtain a REVS report before paying out a "total loss" claim on a vehicle. Said report outlines all sorts of info about the vehicle in question such as the registered owner's details and whether there was any finance owing, etc.

Any mug can purchase a REVS report for about AU$15! I don't believe you even need to have a legitemate reason. Very scary if you think about it too hard...

Of course, I only saw the ones that we got at the insurance company - maybe the version that Joe Citizen gets is different???

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Silver badge

Sentence

After defrauding over £125,000 from the taxpayer, a member of the House of Lords is "suspended".

If you defrauded even 125k from your employer, you would be immediately sacked, brought to trial, and sent to Belmarsh for a lengthy stretch. You would spend your first night in the hospital wing to make sure you didn't commit suicide, then you would be moved into a shared cell with a murderer or suchlike. After a time you would move to another prison. On eventual release, you would find it difficult to ever get another job.

It will be interesting to see what punishment is doled out to this poor sap, who has stolen 11k from the taxpayer pursuit of his mild hobby.

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FAIL

Seriously!

"Curl also faces a proceeds of crime hearing in January" Seriously, how does that work in this case!

In further news a man was arrested today for stealing sunshine that had previously been allocated to his managers office. This follows on from reports that he was using company internets to read a story about bus spotter.

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Unhappy

@proceeds of crime

it's his list of bus numbers. bastards are gonna take it off him.

cruel and unusual

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Boffin

we want our money back

Simples. DVLA charge a fee for every enquiry through their data connection. It's probably only pence, but do it thousands of times (he was a 'big wheel' spotter, remember) and it quickly gets out of hand. So DVLA bill AXA, and AXA want their money back. DVLA have spent their cut on maintaing the systems that provide the data, so nothing to come back from them.

As a droid-type employee he was probably shown how to check registrations but never told the cost, because for authorised use it's built into the general accounting.

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Proceeds of crime hearing?

It's the DVLA that got the proceeds of this particular crime.

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Thumb Up

Gricers

Pronounced G-rye-sirs.

That's what bus spotters call themselves, at least the one I once knew did.

I didn't know he was a "gricer" until, one day, he was giving me a lift to the train station. On the way he suddenly exclaimed "F**k me, its a type 53 Routemaster" or something similar.

He took off after this bloody bus, pulled his car up in front of it at the next bus stop (so that the bus was blocked in), got out of the car and started taking pictures of the bloody thing while I slid down into my seat and pretended I wasn't there. The bus driver just looked resigned to this, as if this were a common occurrence if you drive a type 53 Routemaster .

Needless to say, I missed my train.

He came to the attention of the security services (well, the MOD plod) a few months later.

I received a phone call at the office:-

"Hello. This is constable <redacted> of the MOD Police. Do you know a Mr <redacted>?"

"Errr, yes".

"Can you tell me anything unusual about him"?

"In what way?"

"His, errr, hobby".

"Do you mean busses?"

"Thank you, we'll release him. But he should avoid using a camera outside the Navy base".

This was during the 1st Gulf War. The muppet taking photos of busses outside of the Portsmouth Naval dockyard. The MOD plod didn't believe him and needed confirmation that anyone can be that pathetic.

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You could have got your own back for making you miss your train.

"Hello. This is constable <redacted> of the MOD Police. Do you know a Mr <redacted>?"

"Errr, yes".

"Can you tell me anything unusual about him"?

"In what way?"

"His, errr, hobby".

"Do you mean naval vessels"

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Happy

Chortles

Thanks for the story; got a good laugh out of that one!

I used to work with a guy that was a train spotter. He got picked up by the police more than once for being in the wrong place getting "the perfect shot" of some manky train. He was a single man in his late 50s that lived with his cats - quelle surprise!

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Pint

Plane Spotters Weren't Our Problem...

It was the guy selling ice cream to them...he worked for the Soviets and would report on the comings/goings of our base (I was at RAF Lakenheath in the mid-late '80s). 'Course the tip-off was the 11 antennas sprouting from his van, so he could monitor our frequencies. We let him be on the principle "Better the devil you know", and just worked any classified stuff around his location/shift.

When I was at RAF Upper Heyford (beautiful area of England with some great people with whom we are still friends), we tried to move some F-111s from the US into the UK covertly (NATO exercise), flying in on a weekend, after dark, no light approach until they were on final and then turned off as they landed, just using the headlights from our vehicles to guide them along the taxiways to the shelters. Nice and covert...except for the truckload of plane spotters at the end of runway who'd been tipped off by one of their own in Base Ops and remained camped out there for a few days until they got all the photos they wanted. Still, we managed to keep it "quiet" from the rest of Europe and pulled off a surprise attack on Monday.

Anyways, here's one for the good times we had during our 6 years in the UK, where met some great people and got to live in a beautiful country.

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Happy

"Do you mean naval vessels"

Surely you mean "nuclear wessels".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdSJFrhb-HM

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Bronze badge

Very slightly off-topic

Does anyone know why this kind of obsessive behaviour is strongly biased towards males?

Whenever you see a plane / train / bird / bus spotter or a collector of stamps, eggs or whatever, it's almost always a man.

I haven't got any particular axe to grind, I just wonder why.

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male behaviour

this behaviour possibly ranks on the autistic spectrum under obsessive fact collecting, which affects more males than females.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm no expert but...

Obsession on a particular subject, especially the collecting of facts and figures about it, can be a trait of autism, in particular Asperger's Syndrome. The diagnosis rate for this (currently) is about 4 to 1 male to female. So there may be some link there.

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Happy

women

have friends, and a life...?

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Joke

Unlike...

...spending every saturday examining every item in every shoe shop, looking for a new pair to add to your existing collection of hundreds, which is "normal" behaviour if you're female.

(I'm not really joking, but it's a handy escape clause)

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of course...

...that's not an explanation, all you've done is put a name on the phenomenon the OP identified, which is not the same as explaining it. So we call it Asperger's Syndrome, fine - the question simply becomes 'why do four times as many men as women get diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome?'

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Stop

As I said, I'm no expert

..so I wouldn't even know where to try and explain why it might be so. What I have done though is given the OP a suggestion which he/she can then go and investigate further, and possibly find a reason (though I'm not sure the medical bods have any firm ideas themselves yet)...

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Coffee/keyboard

Oh well!!!

Each to their own. I sit and look at a screen for hours at a time, post messages to people who I don't know. I even pretend to drive a formula one car while stting at a desk with a steering wheel bolted onto it and a set of pedals under the desk, or I even pretend to shoot people in a war. Sometimes I go out a shop and buy better and faster bits of equipment so I can do it all even quicker and faster.

Who am I to judge others and their interests. All I can really condemn him for is poor judgement in using his position and effectively stealing from his employer to indulge his interests.

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Joke

wussy

I do all that in real life !!!

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FAIL

But..

...you only get to do it because of who your Dad was, Bruno. Now get off the comment boards and go and twat it into the wall at another simple corner.

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Silver badge
Joke

Bus spotters !!

There are never any about, and then, all of a sudden, five roll up at the same time...

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WTF?

what proceeds

The proceeds of crime thing is about confiscating the ill gotten gains of criminals.

What are they going to do, take away his notebook with the bus numbers in it???

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Well technically,

the information he obtained is "worth" £11,000, so the information _is_ the proceeds. The only way to redress this is for him to pay the money back, rather than to take away his notebook!

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MJI
Silver badge

Spotters

A very common hobby years ago, the big one used to be train spotting, aircraft spotting was not well known, civil aircraft spotting joked at, military was OK.

But one thing I do remember was train spotters ripping the wee out of bus spotters.

Train spotting is being killed by the disappearance of British built locomotives, if all you see is a Shed* or a characterless multiple unit** why bother?

* A GM built freight loco with the build quality of one. also known for occasionally requiring assistance from a British freight loco on steep banks.

** The old ones had tons of character.

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Happy

Maybe so but..

Many of the old tramps dossing about the towns have tons of character as well, but I don't particularly want or feel the need to go out spotting them.

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Happy

Luton's famous plane spotter

Walter Nunn was banned from Luton airport for a while, not sure if he is still alive last saw him feeding carrots to the wild rabbits around the airport. Funnily enough in the 80's/90's there was a lot of black wild bunnys in that area, few of my friends who shot the wild ones didn't like to shoot them, a case of unnatural selection.

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MJI
Silver badge

Transport Enthusiasts - pretty common really.

OK I think it is time to clear up some of the points about spotting ect.

As you can see all of the "spotting" involves transport. "Spotting" is a sub set of being a transport enthusiast.

I like transport and machines, I can appreciate a vintage bus, an E Type Jaguar, an old Bedford coach, a Vulcan, a Deltic, a 9F, or a nice narrow boat.

(This can sort of apply to the gadget fans and computer builders - lots of shiny bits)

This is normal for most men and some women. The person spotting a bus back then may now be a manager or may run his own preserved bus. The 1970s to 1980s train spotters and photographers probably own 3/4s or so of all the preserved "Modern" traction (assuming modern as post 1950), just as the 1950s-60s steam spotters bought up the contents of Woodhams scrap yard.

The sad lonely ones though let it go to obsession, I have seen a few and they were not heroes or anything, they were generally pitied, some were well known and TBH were treated as a bit of a joke.

Most of the spotters I would say were teenage to early twenties and there were a few girls with their boy friends.

Almost all have gone now to railway preservation if at all interested now due to the loss of many favourite locomotives.

The funniest thing is that within spotter circles there were factions - support you favourite loco class - now they were funny!

BTW I am a transport and machine enthusiast.

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"letters and/or digits"

What a sad bus-tard

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