Cold-calling industry under investigation

The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) has joined forces with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate reports that claims management firms have been cold-calling motorists after illegally obtaining their details from garages.

This comes after a number of motorists reported receiving unsolicited calls within hours of taking their vehicles into garages for repair.

Sandra Draper, from Bexhill-on-Sea, in East Sussex, received a stream of telephone calls urging her to pursue a personal injury claim. They began on the same day in February that she took her car into a garage for a routine service.

In a letter to the Apollo Motor Group in Bexhill, she wrote, ‘Since that date… I have been pestered on an almost daily basis on my mobile.’

The garage said the information had been stolen from its IT system and that it never passed on customer details. It is among more than 50 garages that the RMIF has identified as falling victim to cyber-criminals.

Jason Moseley, executive director at the RMIF, said, ‘We have direct evidence that data entered into bodyshop systems has found its way in a matter of hours into the hands of third party organisations.

‘We do not yet know if these actions are legitimate disclosures, the result of a cyber-attack or a physical breach of such systems, so we have taken no chances and launched an investigation.’

In an effort to assess the scale of the problem and find the culprits, RMIF investigators entered fake customer data into the computer systems of some of its members. Within 12 hours some telephone numbers had been called by claims management firms seeking to secure personal injury claims.

Mike Shaw, enforcement group manager at the ICO, told The Sunday Times, ‘We know that the disreputable end of the cold-calling industry often relies on illegally accessing people’s personal data, and our investigations have already led to several successful prosecutions.

‘After a car accident, people have to pass their details to a number of organisations, from the people repairing a car to the company providing a courtesy vehicle. Lists of these people who’ve been involved in car accidents can be valuable leads to claims companies.’