Your Date of Birth is useful to companies, particularly those that cold call you on the telephone. 

They need it to target what to sell you
If you are getting ‘nuisance phone calls, or ‘selling’ letters

it could be because a company or service has sold on your private details, without even asking your permission.

Companies buy lists, and will look for potential clients by date of birth (we tend to buy different things according to our age), area in which they live (rich/poor) and any health conditions (selling pills, ‘miracle cures. insurance, etc). They can glean a lot of useful information from any list with these elements.

My local community Healthcare has a lot to answer for

End of July I receive two letters re Changes to the Community Podiatry Service.

These said there would be two Workshops to tell us what was going on, and both were to be held in the north of the area – very helpful for those of us who find it difficult to get around but live in the south of the borough, I don’t think.

If we wanted to know more, the letters gave contacts, tel. nos and emails where we could get this.  I contacted them ALL, but so far NO reply from any of them.

THEN – on July 30th I receive another letter, dated 28th July, also postmarked 28.7.17, but this time with a scary added paragraph:

“If you do not want your details to be transferred to ……..  please contact …………..  by the 23rd June 2017.”  In other words, if I didn’t want my personal information to be handed over to a company that might then sell them, I had missed the date by several weeks.  I  phoned and emailed, again and again, but so far haven’t received ONE call-back.

I did try calling a switchboard number (020 8102-5555) on Friday afternoon.  Silly me. It was about 4.30 – so phone rang and rang.  Voice kept on tell me I was number XXX in the queue.  Three times I thought I had got to the head of the queue – and was automatically cut off.  So that’s what happens when the NHS wants to go home early.

Scary Stuff – and it gets worse

By August 10th, I had not received an acknowledgement of any of my horrified phone calls and emails – BUT I did received a fat envelope, with lots of information, from a company inviting me to take part in Clinical Trials for one of the medical conditions I have.

Clinical Trials

As cancer patients, we are told of the importance of Clinical Trials, and how we can benefit from them.  So I was very excited. The letter was very long, pretty picture etc., but didn’t give any definite information, which I would have thought rather important.  Such as

  • what was going to happen
  • what would be possible outcome
  • what might problems/side effects be
  • where were the trials to be held….  etc

Alarm bells were ringing very loud.

When I contacted my Consultant’s office, they were adamant they weren’t involved in any trials, and certainly would not have given out my details without asking my permission.  Same with my GP.  So, who had released my private information?

BEWARE

If you get a letter out of the blue, asking you to take part in Clinical Trials, phone your consultant’s office immediately and ask if this is anything to do with them.  If the answer is no, then the waste paper basket is the only place for the letter.

There is another scam – which involves online pharmacists. Recently the Information Commissioner has discovered selling on of data of more than 20,000 patients to secondary marketing companies, which is likely to have resulted in patients having ‘suffered financially’.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Pharmacy 2U for failing to inform customers of their intention to sell on their names and postal addresses through an online marketing list company, and for selling it without consent, in contravention of the Data Protection Act.

While the company says medical details were not passed on, it has not been able to notify the customers affected because it ordered the ‘certified destruction’ of their names when the breaches came to light.

The companies who bought Pharmacy 2U customer data include a health supplements company that has been cautioned for misleading advertising and unverified health claims.

Hospitals some of worst offenders

Every time we check in to an NHS hospital, the Receptionist asks for our Date of Birth, follows this by asking – often in a loud voice – “do you still live at ……..  ?  Any thief in the waiting area then has a lovely lot of your data which hasn’t cost anything to gather.

Private hospitals are far more protective of their patients’ data;  when you check in, if they need your D.O.B., they hand you a pen and paper and you write it down – quietly.  Much better.  But there is nothing to stop you doing same at an NHS hospital,

So be careful – not only when you hand over data to an NHS agency, but when checking in for Outpatients Appointments.  And ask yourself, next time you are bothered with unwanted telephone calls – is it your fault they have your number?

 

 

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