Watchdog: banks leave customer details out in the rubbish
Information left on the street is a target for fraudsters, says Watchdog:
Tuesday 17 October 2006 at 7.00pm on BBC ONE
BBC ONE's Watchdog reveals this week that banks and building societies have left customers' confidential details out in the rubbish - placing them at risk of identity theft.
A team from the long-running consumer series collected bags of unsecured rubbish left outside banks and building societies in five towns and cities across the UK, and discovered:
Details of a bank transfer for £500,000 outside a Nottingham branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland
Credit cards cut into easily reassembled pieces in the rubbish of a Bristol branch of Barclays
Paying-in envelopes with customer names and telephone numbers, sort codes and account numbers, at a Halifax branch in Manchester
A letter confirming a mortgage application, with quote reference and bank statements attached, outside the Scarborough Building Society in York
A loan application with full account details at a branch of Beneficial Finance, member of the HSBC group, in Newport
All these details could easily be used by fraudsters.
The programme has interviewed two people who made a living from identity theft. One claims to have made as much as £600 a day from stealing people's identities from rubbish outside businesses.
The customers whose details were discovered were horrified to learn that their details were not disposed of securely.
The banks are breaking their own guidelines, and could even be breaking the law. It's an infringement of the Data Protection Act if businesses fail to protect the information of their clients.
The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, is launching an immediate investigation.
Watchdog Editor Rob Unsworth said: "We're horrified at how easy it was to get hold of customers' personal details - and about what could have happened if that information had fallen into the wrong hands."
These findings come in National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, when the public is being told not to throw away documents with personal details without shredding them.
Mike Bull, whose organisation Scamsdirect is campaigning on this issue, said: "The question is why is this happening? It's baffling. The banks tell everyone to shred everything but they don't."
All the banks and building societies concerned say they have strict procedures for dealing with confidential waste, and they are reinforcing their existing processes or, in some cases, introducing additional safeguards as a result of Watchdog's investigation.
The Watchdog team visited shopping streets in Nottingham, Manchester, York, Newport and Bristol between 5 and 7 October. The towns and streets surveyed were chosen at random. Some banks on those streets had their rubbish secured in locked bins. Only rubbish left on the street or in a location that could easily be accessed by passers-by was examined.
Watchdog - now in its 21st series - is presented by Nicky Campbell and Julia Bradbury, and is shown on BBC ONE on Tuesday evenings at 7.00pm.