Meet the man who's selling your private data
What happens to all the personal data collected by websites? How much care do companies really take to protect it? How easy is it for third parties to buy and abuse your details?
Several weeks ago, we received a spam email offering a large database of private information for sale. It was one of those rare occasions we replied, simply because the individual signed the email with their own name. We negotiated back and forth over email and received a sample of the database for authentication. It appeared to be genuine - every entry included the full name, email address and postcode. The seller offered additional information such as phone numbers.
The sender's name was Jamie Wale; in subsequent emails he stopped using the anonymous Gmail address he'd initially spammed people with, and began using a second address. Google linked the same address to several websites, one of which proved Jamie isn't shy of the fact he's selling personal data. The address was also found on a forum where Wale mentioned working in the Glasgow/Edinburgh region, and a career in "health club sales management". That strongly suggests he is the same Jamie Wale on LinkedIn who was educated in Calderhead and lives in Edinburgh, and who recently worked as a sales and marketing manager for Esporta, a national chain of fitness centres. That's very relevant, because Wale confirmed the database for sale "came from 2 fitness clubs websites."
Negotiations went very well, so well that Wale sent us complete details for two different bank accounts so that we could pay him. We went cold on the deal and stopped replying, and that was the last we heard - until yesterday:
I have sold and spoke to you regarding data in the past few weeks. I am retiring over the next day or two and will no longer be working as a Consultant, and am fortunately moving to more sunnier shores.
I have alot of data as you know, and this will be the last day you will have the chance to get any from myself. I have all the below data uploaded and ready to send, and I am happy to listen to any 'sensible offers' for any of the data. All offers will be considered.
I will not have the time to sit and discuss back and forward with everyone individually, so if your interested, email me with what price your willing to pay, and what data it is you want. No timewasters i.e. 'next week'.
Please see below all data available. (All data is UK) All come with name email address and phone number. E-mail me if interested.
1. 1.2 Million new businesses from January 2009
2. 2.2 million UK health club members with
3. 300,000 'large property company' registered newsletter members.
4. 14,000 property investors who've invested more than 1 million in property since January 2011.
5. 103,000 investors in business since 2010
6. 120,000 property investors who have invested since November 2009
7. 2.5 million businesses with all details
8. 13 million UK home owners, just with email addresses.
9. 35,000 mortgage details with banks etc.
10. 168,000 who have applied for a loan of more than 5k in the past 3 years
11. 100,000 main contacts of companies turning over more than £50million
12. Also have 19million Uk home owners with just phone numbers for call centres etc.
I look forward to hearing from you.
This time we replied and asked Wale how he came by the data:
BW: Got your email about selling up before retiring. Just to check your databases were all opt-in and you have permission to sell them?
Wale: Yes I do, all opt in with ip's etc. I fly out tomorrow. Any deals need to ber concluded today.
BW: Cool. So your former employers sold them to you to resell, or do you give a cut to them?
Wale: I purchased to re sell. My friend works in a property companyt, hence I get a lot of that too. He gets a cut of what I sell property data wise.
BW: Great, so the fitness group are ok with it. Is your mate allowed to pass on stuff he gets?
Wale: As long as you give them the option to opt out any emails you send you will get 0 complaints. They've all agreed to receove marketing emails. I am away from tomorrow so let me know what your interested in and we'll disucss price
Wale has now 'retired' to Spain, although a quick Google suggests he can probably be found working in Malaga over the summer.
Because of Jamie Wale and others like him, our inboxes fill up with spam and our phone rings off the hook with cold calls and scams. Millions of sets of personal data are constantly being sold on for just a few hundred pounds - and yours is probably among them.