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A former tracing agent pleaded guilty and was fined for illegally obtaining personal information to check if customers of a high street bank could repay their debts.

Michael Isaacs, 80, from Epsom, Surrey was the sole director of Datasearch Services Limited (DSS). DSS is a tracing agent company, previously used by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to locate people who owed money to RBS and to determine their assets and ability to repay the debts. 

In February 2016, we received a complaint from RBS with concerns about the contents of reports it had received from DSS. After conducting a search warrant at Mr Isaacs’ home address, which was also used as his office space, we confiscated 64 trace reports. 

Throughout our investigation it became clear that Mr Issacs was routinely contacting organisations such as utilities companies, local councils, and GP surgeries, while pretending to be the named person and managing to pass basic security questions. He would use voice changing software to impersonate other people and to cover his tracks.

Mr Isaacs would then record personal information such as monthly direct debits, bank account details, and outstanding mortgages to build up an in-depth profile of a person for RBS. This level of detail was wholly outside of the remit and agreement with RBS.

Of the 14 sample counts of unlawfully obtaining personal data contrary to Section 55 of the Data Protection Act, Mr Isaacs pleaded guilty to six counts on 25 February 2022. 

The guilty plea met the threshold for proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), which aims to obtain any assets that the court believes is the product or attained from the proceeds of crime. 

On 15 June 2023, Mr Isaacs appeared at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court for a hearing to consider an application under POCA. The court ruled that Mr Isaacs should pay back £38,000 under a POCA confiscation order after benefiting from his criminal conduct. He was also fined £10,560 with court costs totalling £15,000.