altA Finchley resident, formerly employed in the gambling industry has found himself in deep trouble with the law. Marc Ben-Ezra, who was working for a poker company in Israel at the time of his offence, has been found guilty after obtaining and selling the personal details of over 65,000 online bingo players. His offences fell under section 55 of the Data Protection Act.

In court, Ben-Ezra received a three-year conditional discharge and was instructed to pay £1,700 to Cashcade Limited, the company from whom the data was taken, and a further £830.80 in costs.

Ben-Ezra was charged with three offences, which were uncovered in May this year. Ben-Ezra used the pseudonym Malcolm Edwards to send e-mails to contacts in the UK gaming industry, offering customers details for a price. He even included a sample set of data which included the details of 400 Foxy Bingo customers. This test data didn’t contain any customer’s bank details but did include names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, postal addresses and usernames of players.

Caschcade Limited employed an investigative services supplier to spend £1,700 on a test purchase of the data from Ben-Ezra. The data purchased contained over 65,000 sets of personal details from members who played online bingo at Foxy Bingo. This information was then passed to the ICO and dealt with accordingly. Cashcade Limited made the ICO aware that no customer accounts were compromised.

The data is believed to have been unlawfully obtained in 2008, along with the Foxy Bingo details, as well as 404 records from Gala Coral customers that were also included. A statement from the company states that they believe their data was unlawfully obtained in 2008 also.

Since 1998, it has been a criminal offence to unlawfully obtain or access personal data under section 55 of the Data Protection Act and can lead to imprisonment or a serious fine of up to £5,000 in some cases. The ICO are still working towards getting harsher penalties put in place so that the unlawful obtainment or access of data is taken more seriously.

There have been no formal complaints to the ICO from customers whose names were included in the data; Foxy Bingo and Gala Bingo have both chosen to contact their customers directly so that they can assure them their accounts remain secure.

It’s believed Ben-Ezra made around £25,000 at the expense of many bingo players whose privacy he violated and who now maybe suffer from unsolicited mail from betting websites.  There is no indication that any players have suffered from identity theft resulting from Ben-Ezra’s illegal activities.

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