Arsenal of tactics used by agents to dupe officials
Published 16/08/2014 | 02:30
The use of dirty tricks, false identities, blagging tactics and blatant deception were all part of the arsenal of the private investigators.
Some of the agents, tasked with assisting credit unions in tracking down members in arrears, have been targeting the Department of Social Protection for the information they require for several years.
But the real underlying factor of their success was the building of relationships.
The private investigators struck up a rapport with the unsuspecting department officials who they continually contacted for personal data.
They introduced themselves as fellow state officials, from departments North and South of the border, who were allegedly gathering information as part of their work.
The investigators presented their list of names and remained on hold as the customers' information was freely handed over.
The information supplied was retrieved from a wide ranging database known as 'INFOSYS'.
And as the relationships between the investigators and the civil servants grew stronger, the quantity of the information supplied increased.
A number of the phone calls to department officials took place in the evening time in an attempt to take advantage of potential fatigue.
If the chosen civil servant did not answer the phone or was off work on the day in question, the private investigator hung up or agreed to call back at a later date.
In one case examined by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the private investigator spoke with a UK accent and said he was employed by a State department in the North.
If the official he regularly dealt with was not in work, the private investigator volunteered to call again.
In a second case, an agent phoned an official on a regular basis, only providing a first name.
The agent claimed that the information sought was necessary in order to complete their duties as a state official.
Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney began building profiles of the agents in question last July.
As revealed by the Irish Independent, his investigation into the work of these individuals has spanned beyond the Department of Social Protection.
A series of state-led bodies that have access to confidential data belonging to members of the public may have been infiltrated by private investigators, it is believed.
The suspicion that other agencies may have been targeted is forming the basis of the most significant investigations in years.