You would have thought that if any organisation were to be tough on protecting information it would be the MoD, but no!
West Midlands police are investigating the theft of a laptop from a Royal Navy officer which held the personal details of 600,000 people.
Why is it that these days people seem to be taking the piss with what is quite frankly better than hard cash to many criminals, our personal information? Fortunately I have not recently, or ever, applied for a post in the Royal Navy, I’m not gay. But I feel sorry for the 600,000 people who have and whose details are now more than likely in the hands of some Russian gang.
Just like the HMRC discs and other stuff recently there are those, even I suspect within the organisation that lost the information, that shrug their shoulders and say that the information is harmless, and that nothing will ever come of it and even if it does, they are protected.
That kind of information, or really any information about a person, is not harmless anymore. With many people owning a plethora of store cards and credit cards, we are easy targets for criminals as it is. This is the age of remote shopping and banking, it has in fact never been easier to be a thief. The simple sort code and account number is more than enough for a scam company or bunch of criminals to set up a Direct Debit and take money out of your account. Just ask Jeremy Clarkson.
But there are bigger prizes than emptying someone’s bank account as most people tend to notice that kind of thing. Why steal a few hundred pounds from someone when you could steal thousands upon thousands?
With the kind of information on the HMRC discs and the MoD laptop it is possible to apply for several credit cards, loans perhaps even mortgages in someone else’s name. The criminal gets to spend the money, the victim gets the debt collectors on their backs and has to prove that it wasn’t them spending it.
Of course at the moment everyone is protected, the banks will cover any losses for you, for now. Slowly though, the banks are getting tougher on this. They see it as a customer problem and are slowly changing their Terms and Conditions to make sure that the customer is responsible.
At the moment the banks will take you on your word that you have been scammed or your information stolen, once. Twice and they’ll think you have been too free with your information and may or may not cover your losses, they’ll definitely want you to prove that you’re the victim. Three times and well, you’re on your own!
“The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again.”
Banks won’t cover you if you have given your bank details to someone and the onus is on you to prove that you haven’t.
This is the real problem with ID theft, the banks blame the customers for ‘falling for scams’ when in all likelihood the information that was used came from elsewhere, probably the bank itself. Sometimes it is years before the identities are used or the frauds are uncovered and all the time everyone is giving out more and more information. You have to supply the Inland Revenue with information, you have to provide full information when applying for a job and all the time this information is going missing. Government agencies come clean, but how many businesses do you think admit that they have lost data or been hacked? They aren’t obliged to by law.
You may think that you are quite careful with your personal information but if it isn’t HMRC losing your information, or the DVLA or even companies that you applied to work for, what about those companies that sell your information on? That’s right, everytime you pass on information to a company, be it an online retailer, newsletter or club, they can then sell it to whoever they please. And they do, as it is worth a lot of money.
Add to that the fact that the Electoral Roll is freely available and you soon realise that protecting your identity is like fighting a losing battle. It isn’t a matter of if your information will end up in the wrong hands, but when.