NEWS

UK Taxmen Lose Private Records: What's It Going To Cost?

November 21, 2007
DesiGirl

Gordon Brown's government has been blundering about since his first day at the office. The Northern Rock crisis hit them long and hard and they have barely got past that. But with the latest 'offering', they have taken incompetence to levels barely scaled before.

They have only gone and lost our child benefit records. All of it. All 25 million of it. Gone. Child benefit records, that contain everything from the names, national insurance numbers, addresses, date of births, bank accounts. Know what the funniest bit about this whole thing is? The Chancellor Alistair Darling stressing "there was no evidence of misuse of the data."

Really? That's okay then - I can heave a big sigh of relief and go back to surfing the Web.

What really happened?

Apparently, on October 18, HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service) sent the child benefits data to the National Audit Office, in two CDs, by unrecorded and unregistered post! The CDs, containing the details of 25 million individuals, failed to turn up at the NAO and when NAO complained, a second set was sent to them.

What a bunch of imbeciles! Who are these idiots who run the government? They send vital information, in CDs, by unregistered post and when that fails to turn up, instead of kicking shit, calmly send another copy over! And now, they expect everyone to be relaxed because they assure us that "there is no evidence the data has gone to criminals". Well, we won't know that, will we, until huge sums of cash go missing from our accounts?

The blame game has started already - the Chancelleor blamed junior officials at HMRC for the fiasco; HMRC Chairman Paul Gray has resigned already. The Tories are baying for the Chancellor's blood, asking him to resign too.

How serious is this?

Very. The general public is really worried as to what is going to happen. The data in the lost discs contain real juicy details and any crook would give an arm and a leg to get his grubby mitts on them. Even though the discs are supposed to be 'password protected', the data is not even encrypted - how much time would it take for a determined fraudster to break the password protection?

Banks are trying their best to assure the public that the information contained on the discs are not enough for anyone to access their bank accounts. But there are other ways of perpetrating fraud. Identity theft is a big deal now and for those in the game, this is manna from heaven, Using someone's name, address and date of birth, a crook can take out credit cards, loans, mobile phones etc, for starters. David Hill, senior security consultant at red24 says to the Times, "having a national insurance number is as good as having a passport."

Worryingly, our children's data is in there too - including their dates of birth. What is there to prevent sickos from targetting the children?

While Darling has glibly said people ought to check their bank accounts for "irregular activity", what protection does Joe Public have against the identity theft? From identity theft, organized crime is just a step away. Immigration, driving licences, id cards, NI numbers - anything and everything could come under attack.

So what can one do?

There are organizations like CIFAS that can help one fight identity fraud. CIFAS is the UK's Fraud Prevention Service and will be able to advise on protection of identity and what to do in case of identity theft. Email them at protective.registrationuk@equifax.com. You can also register with a credit reference agency like MyCallCredit, who will, for a fee, monitor your credit and would alert you periodically. Any changes or irregular activity, you would be contacted immediately by the agency and you can react proactively.

The UK Payments Association has released a leaflet for those concerned about the HMRC data theft. The leaflet, according to the APACS website, contains "questions and answers, as well as top tips on spotting and stopping ID theft".

A special hotline has also been set up and the number for that is 0845 302 1444.

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UK Taxmen Lose Private Records: What's It Going To Cost?

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Author: DesiGirl

 

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#1
Deepti Lamba
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November 21, 2007
09:26 AM

Double Yikes!! Child benefit records missing? Irregular account activities......DG this is big!!

#2
desigirl
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November 21, 2007
09:46 AM

I know, Dee. I am worried as hell. I wrote to CIFAS and guess what they say? "There's no proof that this will result in irregular, illegal activity so there's no need to panic!"

The whole govt is going to pot, I tell you.

#3
LighterVein
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November 22, 2007
02:13 AM

DG, you are right to be pissed off at the nincompoops sending the cds in unregistered post.

Not undermining the seriousness of the issue - Is having National Insurance number as good as having a passport? I don't think so. What can one person with my NIN alone do with it? They sent my N.I.N in an unregistered post. Pardon my ignorance if they can. Yes, with bank details and all the remaining information its understandable.

#4
desigirl
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November 22, 2007
03:24 PM

Its the whole caboodle that is worrying, LV. Not just the NI number. Am sure someone 'creative' could come up with loads of ways to wreck havoc with sensitive data and now that the whole thing has been handed to someone on a platter, well, we can just wait and see what is going to happen.

The ONLY good thing about this is that this fiasco effectively puts paid to the ID card system. I do not think this govt can keep track of where their arse is at all times, leave alone confidential information. Toff Dave is having a field day, ain't he though?

#5
temporal
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November 22, 2007
08:58 PM

incompetence a la inspector closeau aside - in these days - big brother who wants to dig up any bit of info on a citizen can do so...

too much info floating around

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