A council has apologised after it accidentally leaked the personal details of housing benefit claimants when answering a freedom of information request.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has now written to 1,900 people warning them of the mistake and has offered to pay for monitoring loans or other payments taken out in their name as a precaution.
The council said it had no reason to believe the information will be used for identity fraud, but has set up a special helpline for affected residents just in case. It has also reported the mistake to the police and the Information Commissioner.
Council director, Laura Taylor, said: ‘I am very sorry that this mistake has happened and for the inconvenience and distress this may cause. We take the security of personal information extremely seriously and we get a high volume of freedom of information requests. We have taken immediate steps to further tighten our procedures and will act on any lessons from the review and investigation.
’It is likely that the person who got the information was making enquiries to lots of different councils to compare statistics and will not even realise that they have the personal information, but we cannot be 100% certain. I do not want to worry people unnecessarily but felt that it was only right that we let the people affected know what has happened and give them advice on what they can do to protect themselves with our help.’
The council tried to contact the person who made the request but has been unable to get a reply.