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Bank fined £75K for 3-year fail.. and, er, you've got a FAX MACHINE?

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The Bank of Scotland has been hit by a £75,000 fine over a snafu that led to it repeatedly faxing customers’ account details to the wrong people.

Sensitive information included payslips, bank statements, account details and mortgage applications, along with customers’ names, addresses and contact details. The information was faxed to wrong numbers in a series of incidents over a three-year period starting in February 2009.

One third-party organisation reported receiving 21 documents in error over the three-year period, while a member of the public received a further 10 misdirected faxes. Both parties had fax numbers that differed by only one digit from the intended recipient, the fax machine of an internal Bank of Scotland department that routinely uploads documents onto the bank’s system.

Even after repeated complaints to the bank itself, the errors continued – eventually prompting the fed-up recipients to complain to data privacy watchdogs at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The mistakes continued even during the ICO's investigation, which resulted in a sizeable fine against the bank (PDF), which is part of the Lloyds Banking Group.

"The Bank of Scotland has continually failed to address the problems raised over its insecure use of fax machines," said Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, in a statement. "To send a person’s financial records to the wrong fax number once is careless. To do so continually over a three-year period, despite being aware of the problem, is unforgivable and in clear breach of the Data Protection Act.

"Let us not forget that this information would have been all a criminal would ever need to carry out identity fraud," he added. ®

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