Concern over missing personal data

STOLEN data relating to 3,000 people in the Suffolk Coastal area has today still not been recovered - and it could mean a year of worry for those affected.

STOLEN data relating to 3,000 people in the Suffolk Coastal area has today still not been recovered - and it could mean a year of worry for those affected.

The biggest concern is identity theft and fraud, with a thief using people's names and home addresses to obtain credit or goods.

Council chiefs say this is a possible but “low risk”, and the laptop - stolen from the home of a council IT contractor - is password protected, though not encrypted. It does not contain any bank details or financial information.

The computer contains details of people who have taken part in licensing applications handled by Suffolk Coastal, including pubs, places of entertainment, taxi and private hire vehicles, or for festivals and fetes.

Ivy Cleary, of York Road, Felixstowe, who is on the database because she objected to the grant of a licence for the new Caf� Bencotto in the town centre, said: “I received the letter from the council and I couldn't think why I would be on their database - in fact, I didn't even know what a database was!

“It's very worrying to think someone has got your details and could use them. I have been in touch with my bank just in case.”

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In a letter sent to everyone on the missing database, Hilary Slater, council head of legal and democratic services, apologised for any inconvenience and worry people might be caused.

“If the information is accessed, there is a possible risk that the details could be used for identity fraud,” she said.

She said if a thief had not used the information to commit fraud in a year, then it is highly unlikely it will ever be used.

The laptop was stolen from the home of an employee of Lalpac Ltd, a contractor transferring data on to a new software programme.

Suffolk Coastal leader Ray Herring said: “We have instructed the company to stop the work they were doing for us and we are investigating what further action we could take against them for this lapse of security.

“We had followed all the rules but we have to face the criticism caused by someone else's actions. I can only offer sincere apologies to those affected and reassure everyone that we will redouble our efforts to ensure that data in future is dealt with in as secure a fashion as possible.”

A council spokeswoman said further talks are taking place with Lalpac but it is too early to say what the outcome and the future of the authority's relationship with Lalpac will be.

Panel:

FAMILIES and companies whose names are on the missing database could in future face stricter and more thorough checking when seeking credit or buying goods.

Names and addresses of everyone involved have been registered with the CIFAS Protective Registration Scheme.

This means if someone tries to use the names to obtain credit or services, it will flag up a warning that the person's identity has been stolen. If a fraud is committed, CIFAS works closely with the police to catch the criminals.

It will not stop the affected people from obtaining credit or goods - such as loans, credit cards, or insurance - but they will face much more thorough security vetting before their applications are accepted.

Panel: Data problems

More than 15,000 Standard Life customers were put at risk of fraud after a courier lost a computer disk containing personal information, including national insurance numbers, dates of birth and pension data.

A laptop computer holding sensitive information was stolen from the boot of a car belonging to an HM Revenue and Customs worker, putting hundreds of people at risk of fraud.

There was a major scandal after discs containing personal details of 25 million people were lost by HM Revenue and Customs.

Details of almost 900,000 calls to the Scottish Ambulance Service went missing after a courier firm lost a disc.

Names, addresses and phone numbers of three million candidates for the driving theory test were lost in another incident.

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