CHARITIES that sell on people’s details will be tackled, regulators promised yesterday after it emerged that an elderly man with dementia had been conned out of thousands of pounds.
Former army colonel Samuel Rae lost almost £35,000 after his data was passed on up to 200 times by 15 different charities, not just to each other but to dodgy businesses too.
Son Chris said that his 87-year-old widowed father, who lives in Cornwall, had been treated in an “absolutely disgraceful” way by the charities.
Mr Rae was subjected to at least 731 letters and calls requesting money after he neglected to tick a privacy box on a lifestyle survey 21 years ago, an investigation by the Daily Mail found.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his office would be investigating and said: “If the law has been broken, we will take action.”
A failure to tick a box “isn’t consent and it doesn’t give you the right to trade in people’s personal information years after the event,” Mr Graham added.
Best Of and Biotonic, two foreign companies that have faced legal action for scamming older people, swindled him out of £4,000 and £400 respectively.
His details were passed on to them by the Cancer Recovery Foundation and the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation.
The RSPCA contacted Mr Rae for up to five years after he asked them to stop and asked for money up to 38 times a year.
The RSPCA said it “strongly disputes any claims that we deliberately target the elderly or vulnerable, or deceive our supporters in any way” and that it gives people the option to opt out of further communication.
Another animal charity, the PDSA, traded his data 10 times, including to the Prize Winners’ Club, which the Mail said is known to target and defraud elderly people.
The Fundraising Standards Board, which regulates fundraising practice and monitors complaints about how charities raise money, said Mr Rae’s situation was “deeply concerning” and promised to fully investigate the allegations.
It comes just months after the government commissioned a review into the way charities carry out fundraising following the suicide of Britain’s longest-serving poppy-seller, Olive Cooke, who was 92.
Ms Cooke, from Bristol, had said that she got up to 267 letters in a month and regular phone calls from charities asking for donations.