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The Information Commissioners' in-tray got a little bigger today as it confirmed it would be investigating a series of ID trading sites unearthed by journalists.

The Times screamed today that "the financial details of tens of thousands of Britons" were being sold on the internet.

The paper detailed how it had been able to download banking information for 32 people, including account numbers, PINS, and security codes, "without spending a single penny". The data, including that of a deputy judge, was apparently offered as a free taster by the ID traders.

It's no secret that personal details are being traded online, although the fact that criminals are now offering free samples is a new wrinkle.

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) confirmed the paper had passed on the details of its investigation, and said: "We'll be looking at the evidence."

She pointed out the ICO had previously called for custodial sentences for criminal trading of details.

Given the ICO's remit, the organisation's interest would presumably be in how the data escaped into the wild in the first place.

Criminal investigations would be down to the police, who would also take the lead in shaking down sites which are based abroad – it seems unlikely such sites are being hosted in the Thames Corridor.

Unfortunately, UK police are not falling over themselves to investigate card fraud as it is. A change in the law earlier this year means victims of card crime are now advised to go to their banks, rather than to the police.

The recent release of 25 million IDs into the wild courtesy of HMRC might be expected to further complicate matters, both for consumers looking to keep their IDs out of fraudsters' hands, for the ICO, and for authorities investigating fraud.

Of course, we could always look on the bright side, and hypothesise that the UK government's decision to flood the market with IDs will drive prices down, encouraging some ID traders to pack up shop. ®

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