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Hacking into phone records helps to crack down on rogue traders'

PUBLISHED: 10:56 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:22 12 August 2010

A COUNCIL boss has defended the use of legislation enabling the authority to hack into phone records and said he is surprised other local authorities do not do the same, writes Kate Nelson. Clive Davison, head of commercial services in Bromley council s

A COUNCIL boss has defended the use of legislation enabling the authority to hack into phone records and said he is surprised other local authorities do not do the same, writes Kate Nelson.

Clive Davison, head of commercial services in Bromley council's Trading Standards insisted tapping into the phone records was a vital investigatory tool in cracking down on rogue traders who have conned up to £500,000 out of elderly or vulnerable residents.

He spoke to the Times following data released under the Freedom of Information Act revealing that Bromley council has requested to use powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) a total of 50 times between March 2006 and August 2009.

Mr Davison said that the requests were made to track down 25 rogue traders in the borough and that one in four of these cases has led to a conviction.

The head of commercial services, who authorises the requests put in by the Trading Standards team, said the legislation was only used to trace names and addresses of phone numbers of dodgy traders.

He added: "We don't read text messages, listen to phone calls or read emails. We simply get the subscription information of a mobile or BT land line to get the name and address of the user.

"In all these cases, it is to do with elderly people that have been targeted by rogue traders doing unnecessary work at huge expense getting them to fork over their life savings.

"I have seen people virtually destroyed by this, it is a despicable crime where they prey on the most vulnerable residents. We use RIPA in a responsible way to protect people from this type of crime."

But neighbouring councils Bexley and Greenwich, when responding to the Times' Freedom of Information request, said they have not made any requests to investigate phone records.

Mr Davison said he was "flabbergasted" to hear that the neighbouring authorities had not used the power, adding: "Are they actively trying to pursue this type of crime? If so, they have messed up. I am surprised."

He added: "Sometimes the only evidence we have from the victims are a description, a first name and a telephone number, it is the only line of enquiry we have."

Recent cases that Bromley council have included an elderly resident having £120,000 of his life savings taken from him, another handing over £30,000 and a vulnerable resident handing over £22,000 for bogus repairs.

katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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