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Lawyers, banks and insurers to face spot-checks over use of Private Investigators

#1 User is offline   hukildaspida 

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Posted 12 December 2014 - 02:47 PM

Will the NZ Government & it's Privacy Commissioner investigate and do spot checks of Lawyers, banks & insurers in the same way Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner plans to?

Niall O'Connor Twitter


Published 01/12/2014 | 02:30


LAW FIRMS, banks and insurers are to come under serious scrutiny over their use of private investigators, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is planning a New Year's blitz on rogue investigators who are suspected of using illegal tactics to obtain personal data belonging to members of the public.

A major probe this year revealed the ease in which private investigators, also known as tracing agents, were able to wrest reams of addresses and PPS numbers from State agencies through the use of false identities.

The investigators in question were operating on behalf of many of the country's credit unions who had hired them to track down customers in arrears.

The Irish Independent can reveal that the authorities now believe the use of rogue investigators is rampant in other sectors of the economy.

Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney
is to carry out a number of "spot checks" in the New Year on law firms, banks and insurance companies.

Mr Delaney has built up a major dossier on activities of private investigators, some of whom are operating on behalf of companies based in other jurisdictions.

He suspects that firms involved in the legal, financial and insurance sectors may be using private investigators to gather personal data.

"It would be remiss of me not to look at other sectors," Mr Delaney told the Irish Independent last night.

"I certainly don't believe this type of rogue activity is confined to credit unions," he added.

Commissioner Delaney this year secured a series of convictions against private investigation firms who were using illegal tactics to obtain personal data belonging to unsuspecting members of the public.


His investigation discovered that a number of firms hired by credit unions stole data from the country's biggest spending department through the use of so-called 'blagging tactics'.

The so-called tracing agents, acting on behalf of at least a dozen credit unions, were able to obtain personal data from officials in Department of Social Protection without having to prove who they were.

The department has since pledged a major tightening of its internal control systems surrounding data protection.

But now, Mr Delaney plans to expand his probe to examine whether private investigators in Ireland and the UK are illegally obtaining personal data on behalf of banks, insurance and law firms.

The decision to expand the probe comes as it emerged that the credit unions at the centre of the data protection scandal have stopped using the services of private investigators.

Four of the credit unions were based in Limerick and the remainder operate in Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Mr Delaney told the Irish Independent that he has since warned credit unions against providing the dates of birth of customers to third parties.

The data watchdog secured a series of convictions relating to the credit union scandal this year following two significant court cases.

In October, two female directors of a Wicklow-based firm were fined more than €10,000 for using "subterfuge" to illegally obtain the addresses of customers in arrears. The pair used blagging tactics to infiltrate the Department of Social Protection and the HSE. Some €7,500 of the fine related to their company and the remainder was applied to the two directors.

And last month, private investigator and former garda Michael J Gaynor was fined €5,000 after he was convicted of breaking data protection laws by obtaining private personal information held by gardai and the ESB.

A court heard that credit unions hired the ex-garda to track down bad debtors who were in arrears with their loans.

He provided them with "trace reports" in order to assist them in locating debtors for the purpose of initiating legal proceedings.

Irish Independent

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Posted 12 December 2014 - 04:23 PM

Private investigator, former Aspen police officer accused of abusing records


A Roaring Fork Valley private investigator has been charged with a misdemeanor stemming from his involvement in a case involving child abuse or neglect, according to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

A complaint was filed Monday against James P. Crowley, 48, of Aspen, alleging the crime of “misuse of dependency and neglect records information.” Crowley, a former Aspen police investigator, is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 16.

Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan said that Crowley showed a record pertaining to a child-abuse case to a third party who wasn’t allowed to see it. That person was a minor, Bryan said Thursday.

“He was using his capacity as a defense investigator to do that,” Bryan said. “In particular, we’re alleging that he showed someone’s forensic interview (to the third party), and a forensic interview is very private and highly confidential.”

The interview was conducted at the River Bridge Regional Center, an accredited nonprofit child-advocacy center in Glenwood Springs that specializes in the prevention, assessment, treatment and investigation of child abuse.

The complaint alleges that Crowley committed the action sometime between Dec. 1 and Aug. 1.

No other details about the misdemeanor case against Crowley were available Thursday. Crowley declined to comment when reached by telephone.

He has made news in the recent past, having been fired by the Aspen Police Department in August 2008 when he allegedly showed up for work under the influence of alcohol. He had worked for the department for 18 years.

Crowley’s firing reportedly shook up the local law enforcement community because of the large number of Aspen police officers and Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies who had worked with him or knew him over the years. At the time, he was drawing a salary of about $70,000 annually.

Originally charged with driving while ability impaired and possession of a weapon under the influence, Crowley struck an agreement with prosecutors in November 2009, pleading guilty to reckless driving. Garfield County Judge Paul Metzger — who presided over his case after Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely recused herself — ordered Crowley, then 43, to take an alcohol-education class and pay $267.50 in fines and court costs.

Also, five months ago, Crowley testified in a high-profile homicide trial in Tucson, Arizona. A jury in April found former Aspen socialite Pamela Phillips, 56, guilty of first-degree murder in the 1996 car-bomb killing of her ex-husband, businessman Gary Triano.

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