Parents at risk of fraud after the government loses personal details
Parents may be at risk of fraud after the government lost two computer discs containing the entire child benefit database. Names, addresses, birthdates, National Insurance numbers and bank account details are all included on the discs. So what should worried parents do?
Government under fire – parents worried…..
Computer discs with more than 25 million people’s details on them have, astonishingly, been lost in the post. The sensitive information contained the personal details of everyone claiming child benefit in the UK, including 7.25 million who have it paid directly into their bank accounts. It was apparently sent on two computer discs by a junior official from Washington, Tyne and Wear, to London via courier on October 18th. The discs – which were not encrypted, only password protected - didn’t arrive. The banking industry were not told until last Friday.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, said he “deeply regretted” what had happened, and added that banks were monitoring bank accounts. People are being urged to pay close attention to their accounts in case of “unusual activity”, but have been assured that if they lose money because of this, it will be refunded.
Who may be affected?
Anyone who claims child benefit – which is available to each parent (and normally claimed by the mother) who has a child or children aged under 16.
Older children in full-time education are still entitled to child benefit, so their parents are also at risk.
Child benefit is taken up by nearly 100 percent of those eligible.
What does the data include:
- Names, address and birth date
- Partner’s details
- Children’s names, ages and sex
- Bank account details
- National insurance number.
Why is this such all such a concern?
Fraudsters would be delighted if this information fell into their hands, as it would give them all they needed to create false identities (such as setting up credit agreements or taking out credit cards) or to try and take money from people’s bank accounts.
Banks are now bracing themselves for people to possibly close their accounts – although it might be that instead, they decide to change their passwords, especially if they have been using their children's names or dates of births.
What should people do?
- Check your bank accounts in case of “irregular activity”
- Change passwords on your bank accounts.
- Be vigilant about possible signs of ID theft or fraud – eg letters approving or denying you credit which don’t ring any bells.
- You could ring one of the three credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax or Callcredit.co.uk, although they do charge for their monitoring services.
There is a Child Benefit Helpline you can call for more details: Ring 0845 302 1444.
The police are now investigating the hunt for the discs.
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