Identify theft may seem a relatively recent crime, but in 1866 it was operating successfully in Chelsfield. Three local ladies were victims.   Mrs Baugh was the mother of the rector of Chelsfield, Mrs Waring was the wife of a local landowner and magistrate, and Mrs Harvey a neighbour and friend. All three ladies received bills demanding payment for goods they knew nothing about. Mrs Waring supposedly owed £4.6s for “four white and black plaid shawls”.  Mrs Baugh was said to owe £15.11s. 6d, a very sizeable sum.     The culprit was one James Wood, who was busy obtaining goods from merchants in London’s west-end using forged orders in the names of the three Chelsfield ladies. According to the report in The Times of 7th September 1866, James Wood from Brick Lane, Spitalfields was charged at the Guildhall with obtaining goods through forged orders. The prosecution described how Wood had presented forged notes to silk merchants, and taken the goods, supposedly for delivery to the ladies concerned, with subsequent payment by cheque. It was common practice for goods to be ordered, despatched and paid for in this way. Here is the wording of the letter Mrs Waring is said to have sent to Mr Amott, of St Pauls Churchyard: Woodlands, January 19 1866 Mrs Waring will thank Mr Robinson to send by bearer four white and black plaid shawls, woollens, small pattern, the price between 20s and 25s each. On the receipt of bill with parcel I will forward a cheque for the amount. Address W.Waring,Chelsfield, Bromley. Two upright Chelsfield residents came to give evidence against Wood: Mr and Mrs Waring.  Here are the extracts from The Times September 7th 1866 recording their statements: Mrs Mary Waring said she is the wife of Mr William Waring, a magistrate of the county, and resides at the Woodlands, near Bromley. She does not deal at Mr Amott’s [the silkmerchant in question]…..the letter was not written by her or by her authority, and she never had the goods.  She had, however, been greatly annoyed by receiving bills for goods she knew nothing about.  Mr William Waring of Woodlands, Chelsfield, said he knew Mrs Harvey and Mrs Baugh. He was perfectly well acquainted with their handwriting, and the letters produced were not written by them. Wood was found to have been convicted of similar offences in 1862, when he had been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in Holloway. He was committed for trial (presumably at the Old Bailey) on these new recent charges.  A two page pdf file of the full report in The Times can be found by clicking here. The source material used here comes from Bromley Archive, catalogue ref L52 WOO BIO/WOO/8.  
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