Investigators accessed social welfare information and disclosed to credit unions

RTE news reports two directors of a private investigation company have admitted accessing social welfare information and disclosing it to a credit union.

Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin, both directors of MCK Rentals Ltd of Trafalgar Road in Greystones pleaded guilty at Bray District Court today to consenting, conniving or neglecting to stop alleged breaches of the data protection laws by the company in May of last year.

The directors pleaded guilty to one sample charge in relation to unlawfully passing information to Tullamore Credit Union.

The facts in relation to 22 other counts of alleged breaches of data protection legislation are being given in court.

MCK Rentals Ltd also pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining access to personal data held by the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive during the same period, without the authority of the organisation’s data controllers, and giving the data to someone else.

The charges relate to the unlawful access and disclosure of information on 23 credit union members.

Assistant Commissioner at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney told the court his office had been conducting an investigation into credit unions suspected of obtaining personal data of individuals.

He said the credit unions concerned had hired private investigators to trace people in arrears and the investigators had used unlawful means to find out where they were living and passed the addresses on to the credit union.

Mr Delaney told the court that MCK Rentals Ltd had contacted both the Department of Social Protection and the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service by phone, and by “blagging” and misrepresenting themselves as being someone else had unlawfully obtained new addresses for people.

This information was then passed to the credit unions.

Mr Delaney said he had statements from the credit unions confirming they had hired MCK Rentals Ltd, obtained information and paid them for the service.

He said the credit unions concerned are Tullamore, Portlaoise, Portarlington, Athy, Caherdavin in Limerick and St Mary’s Park in Limerick.

Tullamore Credit Union used MCK Ltd more than the other credit unions.

The case is continuing.

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