Disc loss exposes millions to fraud riskHMRC issues advice after Child Benefits fiasco

21 November 2007

Man at computer

The government has issued advice to the millions of Child Benefit claimants who could be at risk of identity fraud following the disappearance of two computer discs packed with personal and banking details.

The discs, which hold data on 25 million people, were lost by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

They contained information on everyone who claims child benefit and included names, addresses, dates of birth, Child Benefit numbers, National Insurance numbers and bank or building society account details.

The discs also included the names and dates of birth of children for whom the benefit is being claimed.

Bank accounts

The government has said there is no evidence the information has fallen into criminal hands and the banking industry is also monitoring accounts.

The data alone are not enough to allow a fraudster to access your bank account, as additional security information and passwords are always required.

But HMRC is advising people who use any personal details such as a child's name or date of birth in their password to consider changing it.

Identity theft

The information could also help thieves commit 'account takeover fraud'.This happens when criminals steal information about a person, then call their credit provider and change the home address details. They can then order new cards.

However, even with the data included on these discs, thieves would still need additional information.

There is also a risk that the details could be used to set up credit agreements such as for a credit card or loan, or a mobile phone account in someone else's name.

Helpline

If you notice an unauthorised transaction from your account contact your bank immediately.

If you discover an account has been opened in your name with a bank or other company that you have not had any dealings with, contact it straightaway and inform the police.

HMRC has set up a Child Benefit helpline on 0845 302 1444.

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