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VENTURES AFRICA – An anonymous whistleblower has handed UK newspaper, The Mail, a memory stick containing highly sensitive data of up to 2,000 customers of Barclays Bank, which were allegedly stolen and sold to rogue brokers.
The whistleblower, who said he came out because his “conscience got the better” of him, claims to have information on a further 25,000 customers, according to a report in The Mail.
A spokeswoman of the British bank expressed the bank’s appreciation to the UK tabloid for bringing the development to its attention. Although the bank is yet to verify the 2,000 files claimed to be customers’ data by the whistleblower, investigation has commenced and the bank has contacted the appropriate bodies.
“We contacted the Information Commissioner and other regulators on Friday as soon as we were made aware,” the spokeswoman said.
“We will take all necessary steps to contact and advise those customers as soon as possible so that they can also ensure the safety of their personal data,” she added.
According to the spokeswoman, the bank’s investigation so far revealed that the customers affected are those linked to its Financial Planning business, which was stopped in 2011.
But the whistleblower told The Mail that the customers were selected on purpose, as their details, as contained in the files dating from 2008 were very important for the rogue City traders’ ‘deal’.
When signing up for the Barclays Financial Planning Business, information including customers’ earnings, insurance policies, savings, health issues and mortgages, as well as their response to risk was taken. This information, according to the whistleblower was perfect for business in an unscrupulous broker’s world. Each report is about 20 pages long, he said, and could be sold by shady salesmen for up to £50 ($82) per file.
The Mail said select traders were given the ‘Barclays leads’, and from December 2012 to September last year, there were claims a number of victims were persuaded to buy rare earth metals that did not exist.
According to the unknown man’s estimate, up to 1,000 people could have been ‘scammed’.
Barclays bank however reiterated its commitment to keeping customers’ data as the spokeswoman said the bank takes it seriously.
“Protecting customers’ data is a top priority and we take this issue extremely seriously. This appears to be criminal action and we will co-operate with the authorities on pursuing the perpetrator,” she said.
“We would like to reassure all of our customers that we have taken every practical measure to ensure that personal and financial details remain as safe and secure as possible.”
Barclays bank currently employs over 9,000 in South Africa alone, according to the banking group’s website.
The bank, which operates in 10 African countries offering services ranging from Wealth and investment management, to corporate and investment banking, among others, may leave doubts about the bank’s ability to secure customer data, if investigations find the bank culpable for the leak.
If this happens, Barclays could be fined up to £500,000 ($820,550) by UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, as it does to organisations that fail to protect private data.