Letting agent unlawfully accessed tenants benefit details
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News release 27 February 2012
A letting agent
who unlawfully tried to obtain details about a tenant’s finances from
the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been found guilty of an
attempt to commit an offence under section 55 of the Data Protection
Act and the Criminal Attempts Act.
of Tottenham, was fined £200 and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge
and £728.60 prosecution costs by Highbury Magistrates today.
The offence was
uncovered in June 2011 when the DWP received a call from an individual
who they believed was fraudulently trying to access the account of a
benefit claimant. The DWP investigated before reporting the matter to
investigating officers identified the caller as Pinchas Braun. Further
enquiries found that Braun worked for a property management and rental
business called Manor West Estates and that he was responsible for rent
collection. The DWP account that Mr Braun had targeted belonged to one
of his employer’s tenants.
Braun had no
authority to access the tenants’ information held by the DWP. It was
only his inability to give the tenant’s middle name that raised the DWP
representative’s suspicions and the call was ended before any personal
data was disclosed.
Commissioner, Christopher Graham,
for Work and Pensions hold important information about each and every
one of us. We are very pleased that a DWP staff member was alert to
this attempt to blag information and that the call was halted before it
was too late.
behind Mr Braun’s action was financial. He knew that such an underhand
method of obtaining the tenant’s personal information was illegal but
carried on regardless.
“This case shows
that unscrupulous individuals will continue to try and blag peoples’
details until a more appropriate range of deterrent punishments is
available to the courts. There must be no further delay in introducing
tougher powers to enforce the Data Protection Act beyond the current
‘fine only’ regime,” Mr Graham said.
“The contrast is
striking in the penalties available for blagging under the Fraud Act on
the one hand and under the Data Protection Act on the other. On the
same day, prison sentences were handed down in one court with chicken
feed fines being imposed in another – all for the same activity”
obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under
section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable
way of a financial penalty of up to £5,000 in a Magistrates
Court or an unlimited fine in a
Crown Court. This also applies to attempts under the Criminal Attempts
Act. The ICO continues to call for more
effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison, to be
available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal
Earlier today an
investigation lead by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)
resulted in four individuals receiving custodial sentences under the
Fraud Act after they blagged personal and confidential information
which was later sold to their clients.
Further information on this
story is available at:
If you need more
information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070 or
visit the website at: www.ico.gov.uk.
About the Author
The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s
independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public
interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for
individuals. We do this by promoting good practice, ruling on
complaints, providing information to individuals and organisations and
taking appropriate action when the law is broken.
The ICO enforces and oversees the following
- Data Protection Act 1998
- Freedom of Information Act 2000
- Privacy and Electronic Communications
- Environmental Information Regulations
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2012-02-28 23:31:47 in Legal Articles
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