Scam Alert - Ian Burrows a.k.a. Alex (P) Haynes (Updated)

 
Updated 29th November 2016
It's been a while since one of these alerts has been posted but we have a new scam trader who's worthy of the accolade. Because these characters sold the data to a bunch of accountants with blatant disregard for the law, it's worth adding his name - Ian Paul Burrows a.k.a. Alex Haynes - to the list of web search results. 

Ian's got previous for being economical with the truth, and if you only find a few references to activity there's probably a lot more that's unreported.

Hopefully future 'customers' will be smart enough to carry out due diligence before negotiating a deal. Hopefully people will also realise that any accountant making cold calls using illegally bought marketing lists should be avoided, as I discussed in a previous post.

The Background

After being contacted by a number of accountants firms offering their services (one's I'd never heard of) I started digging, along with other people receiving the same treatment.

After speaking to a selection of these accountancy firms - they've asked for their identities to be masked in exchange for their co-operation -it's apparent that one source is responsible for all this spam. If you've heard from a firm like this recently that you'd not spoken to before please reach out and let me know about your experience - contact details here.

I have evidence showing that Ian / Alex cold-called / spammed a number of accountancy firms whom they knew to deal with contractors, offering lists of 40k and 90k names, email addresses, phone numbers, addresses and daily contract rates. The asking price was £1000 - which is relatively cheap in comparison to some data traders I've carried out surveillance on - although the buyers all negotiated down to about £300 for one list and £500 for the other.

So there you go - that's the value of your information to a small-time data trader, and these types of transactions are going on all the time. No consent, no permission, just you being treated as a commodity. Would you let someone live in your house for free or would you prefer to rent a room?

Initially Alex's name and email address was used to make offers and send invoices - giving a false address. The Ian appears to have used a number of excuses to take over the sales in various respects.

Reasons Why This Illegal

Collectively, the DPA and PECR state that you must acquire explicit permission directly from a data subject (the person who's data you hold) to continue to store it and process it. You must also acquire explicit permission directly from a data subject if you want to send them messages via post, SMS, email or call them about your products or services.

This means that even if you buy a list of peoples details you do not have consent to store, process - or spam - any of the people on it, until you have contacted each directly and acquired directly & explicitly opted-in (not passively opted-in via "if you don't contact us we will assume consent").

Whether or not the data seller has 'consent' of the data subjects is irrelevant and in most cases the trader has no such consent at all - nor are they interested in acquiring it. They simply grab data they've used (or cannot use) and sell it on - often the buyer does exactly the same thing.

We should also be cautious of the accountants firms themselves as they would also be liable for prosecution under the DPA and PECR - even if a list trader claims 'consent' you would still have to acquire explicit consent from each person on the list you buy before you can send them any spam unsolicited marketing.

This can't be a "if you don't reply we will assume consent" - it has to be an explicit response from the data subject specifically asking you to add them to a marketing list. 

Or better - don't try and buy lists at all. Build your network and leads from direct networking using social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook...both of which have policies for dealing with spam.

Actions

In total we know of only four people who've objected to receiving the spam but we believe there's ten times that who'd complained, as the accountancy firms noted lots of negative feedback.

Direct legal action has now been launched against the key player as he's also disregarded all questions & communication to date - more updates to follow in coming months.

Updates

Ian refused to respond to a subject access request (SAR) so that I may address the personal data lists he is selling. He failed to respond to my warning of legal action. In fact, he only responded when the notice of issue (summons) hit the floor at his parents house and his email inbox.

After a number of excuses similar to those he offered others in the past, he went very quiet. I thought the threat of a CCJ would simply get him to give me answers but no - he simply offered to settle the CCJ instead of answering the SAR. 

This seems to indicate that he doesn't want to contest it and probably made quite a lot of money from the whole thing. I've also had new information that there is a wider circle of spam and illicit data trading - detailed in future blog posts.

For now - avoid Ian (or any of his aliases) and do your research into any data traders first.

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