Thousands of Barclays customer accounts leaked to rogue traders

Financial Services // UK

Confidential client files were stolen and sold to fraudulent brokers who then used the details to trick the unaware victims into investment scams.

An anonymous whistleblower exposed the leak by going to The Mail on Feb. 9 with a memory stick holding files on 2,000 Barclays customers. He claimed it was a sample from a stolen database of up to 27,000 files, according to the newspaper. The Mail has informed the bank of the breach.

Highly sensitive information, including customers’ earnings, savings, mortgages, health issues and insurance policies, ended up in the hands of fraudulent brokers.

The data also contained passport and national insurance numbers.

Each report is about 20 pages long, and among the victims are doctors, businessmen, scientists, a musician and a cleaner.

The affected customers had sought financial advice from the bank, and provided their personal details during meetings with an adviser.

“The consultations included filling out questionnaires - or ‘psychometric tests’ - which revealed their attitude to risk,” the newspaper reports. “That information could be exploited to persuade victims to buy into questionable investments.”

The data is a gold mine for traders because it is so incredibly precise. It gets shady brokers inside a target’s head, according to the whistleblower. 

Until 2013, he was working alongside a firm of brokers which, he said, regularly tried to get people to invest in “all manner of dodgy schemes.”

He said select traders were given the tips, which they exploited by saying that they had a great investment opportunity that would suit someone at a particular income level or with a particular amount of money to invest.

The whistleblower first became aware of the Barclays leads in September 2013, when the boss of the brokerage firm asked him to sell them to other traders.

“It is not clear how the records were stolen, but the bank could face an unlimited fine if found guilty of putting customers’ details at risk,” according to The Mail.

Between December 2012 and September 2013, the sketchy firm allegedly persuaded victims to buy rare earth metals that did not exist. The whistleblower estimates up to 1,000 people could have been duped.

When investors began to suspect something, the boss shut the trading floor.

“His orders were to get rid of the evidence, to show that we were never there. We bleached the desks so his DNA was not in the office. We destroyed his laptop and 15 bags of paperwork. We wiped the computers. During this fiasco he asked me, ‘Have you got the Barclays leads?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t, they must have been destroyed,’” the whistleblower said. “But I kept them because I thought the whole thing had gone too far. I want to stop it now, to tell people what was happening.”

Barclays said in a statement: “Our initial investigations suggest this is isolated to customers linked to our Barclays Financial Planning business, which we ceased in 2011. . .We will take all necessary steps to contact and advise those customers as soon as possible so that they can also ensure the safety of their personal data.”

ThreatWatch is a regularly updated catalog of data breaches successfully striking every sector of the globe, as reported by journalists, researchers and the victims themselves.