The Information Commissioner’s Office has executed a search warrant as part of an investigation into a person suspected of posing as an ICO officer to commit criminal offences.

A house in Ilford, East London, was searched in relation to an individual suspected of attempting to illegally obtain personal data from two professional standards organisations, by falsely claiming to be from the ICO.

The person is believed to have used various aliases, a fake email account, a non-existent job title and a counterfeit document to contact the organisations while posing as an ICO officer.

In a series of emails and phone calls, it is suspected they claimed that their own exam results and disciplinary records were inaccurate and demanded they be ‘corrected’ or deleted, under the accuracy provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Officers from the ICO’s Criminal Enforcement team seized mobile phones and computer equipment from the address for further analysis. Officers from the Metropolitan Police were also in attendance to offer support.

The investigation continues and organisations are advised that if they have any doubts about the identity of someone claiming to be from the ICO, they can contact the regulator directly for verification.

ICO Criminal Enforcement Manager Mike Shaw said:

“We will be carrying out a detailed analysis of the equipment we seized, in order to ascertain whether they contain any further evidence of criminal activity.

“This is an unusual but serious case and we would like remind organisations that they can always verify an ICO officer’s identity by contacting us directly.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000. Criminal prosecutions under s55 of the Data Protection Act can attract an unlimited fine.
  5. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
    • fairly and lawfully processed;
    • processed for limited purposes;
    • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
    • accurate and up to date;
    • not kept for longer than is necessary;
    • processed in line with your rights;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  6. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  7. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.