Details of people's pension pots are being sold for as little as 5p each, report claims

Details such as salaries, the value of the investment and the size of the pension were able to be bought

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The Independent Online

Information about millions of people’s pension plans is being sold off without any checks of the buyers’ intentions, according to a report.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched an investigation into the “very worrying” claims and said it would be contacting the police, Financial Conduct Authority and The Pensions Regulator.

Undercover journalists working for The Daily Mail newspaper were able to buy pension information about 15,000 people without any questions about what they planned to use the data for.

They managed to get details such as salaries, the value of the investment and the size of the pension – information that could be used by cold-calling firms and fraudsters.

Records were sold for as little as 5p each without the pensioners involved being told.

Steve Eckersley, the head of enforcement at the ICO, said the revelations suggested “a frequent disregard of laws that are in place specifically to protect consumers”.

“We will be launching an investigation immediately,” he said.

 

“We're aware of allegations raised against several companies involved in the cold-calling sector, and will be making inquiries to establish whether there have been any breaches of the Data Protection Act or Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

“The worst case scenario here is this information getting into the wrong hands and being used to target individuals at a critical point in their financial lives.”

The ICO can fine companies up to £500,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act and can also criminally prosecute offenders.

An ICO spokesman warned some people may have left themselves open to having personal data sold on by not reading the terms and conditions of contracts properly, but added that it appeared some companies were acting unlawfully.

Next week will see major reforms of the pension industry come into force, giving people the option to access the money in their pension pots. The ICO has warned that the changes could be exploited by fraudsters and become the “next PPI scandal”.

“The information we've been shown supports the work we've been doing to target the shady industry that operates behind the nuisance of cold calls and spam texts,” Mr Eckersley said.

“We’re already aware of the potential for a huge spike in the number of scam texts and calls linked to pensions when the law changes in April, and have already taken action against a company that was sending out misleading messages.

“What we've seen here confirms those fears. Personal data is such a valuable asset, particularly financial information.”

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid praised the Mail’s investigation and said: “Targeting people who have saved and done the right thing all their lives is abhorrent. We will follow the ICO’s investigation closely and will not fail to take the necessary action.”

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