If you are a recipient of child benefit in the UK, the chances are your records and bank details were included in one of the two CDs that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has lost. HMRC has said we have nothing to fear, despite the fact it doesn't know where these unencrypted CDs are or who has been accessing them.
All the same, APACS, the British banking payments association, is advising people concerned about the situation to ring a dedicated Revenue phone line - 0845 302 1444. APACS reassures parents that "there is no evidence that the lost data has fallen into criminal hands".
The organisation, in an advisory page on its website, said: "The missing data contained sort code and bank account details, national insurance numbers, dates of birth, names and address details, of all families in receipt of child benefit, as well as the names and dates of birth of those children for whom child benefit is payable."
It again claimed that this information, on its own, was insufficient for a fraudster to access your account.
APACS advises people not to close accounts but to look out for dodgy transactions. If you spot such a transaction you should get in touch with your bank. If, however, you receive post suggesting you have opened an account or applied for a card with a company you have had no contact with, possible evidence that your ID has been copied, you should contact the police. APACS' advice is here.
As for finding out what information HMRC has on you, one Register reader told us:
I have just spoken to the HMRC helpline, and wanted to know exactly what information relating to me had been lost.
Obviously the could not give me the information over the phone, that would not be secure!
For anyone interested in getting a copy of their information that HMRC are holding, you can write to the address below with a covering letter. This letter should contain your request for the data held about you, plus the following: -Your full name -Address -NI Number -Child Benefit number (if you know it)
It may be prudent to send this letter as a recorded delivery, or a secure delivery method - you would not want this information falling into the wrong hands!
RM BP5001, Benton Park View, Long Benton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. NE98 1ZZ
Do it soon, as they may have a sudden increase in requests.
A spokeswoman for HMRC told the Reg: "It's business as usual here. There is no need for people to phone us or their bank. The phoneline (0845 302 1444) has not seen a huge volume of traffic but people are welcome to call if they're worried."
She added that HMRC will be writing to everyone whose information has been lost to apologise. ®