SCAMMERS could be set to target thousands of vulnerable consumers after it emerged that authorities have launched an investigation into allegations that private financial information of individuals is being sold on, with some ending up in the hands of fraudsters and cold-calling firms.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed that it was investigating the claims that some sensitive data is being sold for as little as 5p, after being passed on without the customer’s knowledge.
The probe comes as millions are soon to have the chance to cash in their pension pots following the introduction of government reforms of the sector – sparking fears that those who do so could fall victim to scammers keen to prey on those with extra money in their pockets.
Victims of scams said that cold callers who had contacted them at home knew personal details about their lives and financial habits, with some saying they had been contacted as many as five times a day.
A spokesman for the ICO said: “We’re aware of allegations raised against several companies involved in the cold-calling sector, and will be making inquiries to establish if there have been any breaches of the Data Protection Act or privacy and electronic communications regulations.”
It is understood that information is to be passed to police for further investigation.
Around 15,000 people are believed to be on a database held by company B2C Data, with many of those whose details are listed claiming they have no idea how their information came to be passed to the company.
An investigation carried out by a daily newspaper claimed that companies including B2C were selling on data of tens of thousands of individuals, including details of their salary, pension pots and investments.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: “Today’s revelations that personal data is being passed on to those looking to make a quick buck out of pensioners’ savings are shocking. This is further evidence of the government’s total failure to protect more than 300,000 savers who could start accessing their pensions in just over a week’s time.”
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Targeting people who have saved and done the right thing all their lives is abhorrent. We will follow the ICO’s investigation closely and will not fail to take the necessary action.”
B2C did not respond to The Scotsman’s phone calls. However, in a statement, the firm insisted it had not done anything wrong and welcomed the ICO’s investigation.
“B2C Data Limited is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is a member of the Direct Marketing Association. It operates an entirely legitimate and legally compliant data business.
“Importantly, it does not receive or process information other than in respect of those customers of its members who have opted in. Equally, it does not sell highly sensitive details of salaries, investments and pensions.”
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