John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
  ADVICE TO CONSTITUENTS FOLLOWING HMRC DATA LOSS
John Hemming MP ISSUES ADVICE TO CONSTITUENTS FOLLOWING HMRC DATA LOSS

John Hemming MP is calling on all constituents to remain vigilant following the loss of bank account details, national insurance numbers and other personal information belonging to over 25 million individuals.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday announced that “two password-protected discs containing a full copy of HMRC’s entire data in relation to the payment of child benefit were sent to the NAO, by HMRC’s internal post system operated by the courier TNT. The package was not recorded or registered.”

Commenting on the loss of personal data by HMRC, John Hemming MP said: “This is a major error by HMRC with clear implications for many families in Birmingham (Yardley).

“We all have a responsibility now to watch our accounts closely, and ensure that we report any suspicious behaviour either to HMRC or our banks.”

Nigel Evans MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Identity Fraud has said “If they are not encrypted, not password protected, then clearly this sort of information, if it's generally readable, could be an amazing resource to an ID fraudster.

"It is quite chilling that this sort of information isn't in the hands of the Government.”

Advice to constituents:
If you have any concerns, please contact HMRC on 0845 302 1444 between 8am and 8pm on any day of the week (closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and new Years Day).

If you see any suspicious activity in your bank statements, please contact your bank immediately.

The following steps can also be taken to help prevent identity fraud:

• Keep your personal and confidential documents secure
• Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for unusual transactions
• Regularly obtain a copy of your credit report from credit reference agencies Callcredit, Equifax or Experian, and monitor it for discrepancies
• When you move home, redirect your mail from your old address to your new address for at least a year.
• Always shred before disposing of documentation – bank and credit card statements, utility bills, receipts, direct mail containing any personal information, mortgage applications etc
• Going away? If you're planning to be away from home, you’ll want to make sure you don’t leave any obvious clues, like a pile of mail on your doormat, contact Royal Mail about their 'Keepsafe' service which will hold your mail for up to two months, and deliver it on your return. For more information visit www.royalmail.com
• Never give out any personal information to unidentified individuals or organisations who contact you by phone, email or face-to-face
• Visit www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/ for information on different types of fraud
• Never respond to e-mails asking for personal or financial information. Be especially careful when sending personal information over the internet.
• If you receive an email that warns, with little or no notice, that an account will be shut down unless you reconfirm billing or security information, you should not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, contact the institution cited in the email using a telephone number or web site address you know to be genuine.
• Use up-to-date anti-virus software and a personal firewall and, if your computer uses the Microsoft Windows operating system, keep it updated from the Microsoft website. Be extra careful if using Internet cafes or any PC which is not your own and over which you have no control. If in doubt, a good place to get help and guidance on how to stay safe online is your bank's website. Check regularly for specific information and guidance on protecting your PC and yourself online.
• Avoid emailing personal and financial information. Before submitting financial information through a web site, look for the ‘lock’ icon on the browser's status bar. It signals that personal information is secure during transmission.
• Never give personal information to people calling from companies you have not dealt with before. Always check the identity of these people by calling them back. Obtain their office number from directory enquiries and then confirm their position with the switchboard before speaking to them
• If you have been a victim of identity fraud involving the use of plastic cards, online banking or cheques, the matter should be reported direct to the financial institution concerned. They will then be responsible for further investigation and, where appropriate, onward reporting to the police. Other incidents should be reported to the relevant organisation and, dependent on their advice, to your local police station
 
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