SMEs Warned to Watch Out for Data Protection Scam

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has warned small firms to make sure they don’t fall foul of a scam in which bogus government agencies send notices to businesses demanding they register under the Data Protection Act (DPA).

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), more than 200 businesses a month are falling victim to fake data protection agencies masquerading as government bodies.

The conmen typically send out official looking letters, containing threatening language, requesting businesses pay between £95 and £135 to register under the DPA.

“If firms receive a letter out of the blue, demanding more than £35 to notify under the DPA this will be a scam,” said FPB spokesman Phil McCabe. “Our simple message is to throw the letter in the bin and not pay the fee.”

The statutory fee for DPA notification is just £35 a year and the FPB has urged SMEs that receive demands for more than £35 to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

However, charging fees of up to £135 for a DPA notification service is not in of itself illegal. What is illegal is the threatening language used in letters and businesses that try to pass themselves off as government departments.

Under the DPA, businesses are required to notify the ICO about the way they process personal information. The notification process allows people to find out what personal information an organisation is processing and why.

Some firms are exempt from notification, including those that only use the information for staff administration, their accounts and records, or advertising and marketing for their own business.

“It’s good practice to notify data protection and we would recommend that companies do this directly with us rather than via a third party,” said an ICO spokesman. “The ICO is the only statutory authority for administering and enforcing the public register of data controllers.”

Businesses can submit DPA notification via the notification section on the ICO website or by calling the ICO notification line on: 01625 545 740

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