What started off as a mystery text message has now developed into a serious data protection issue for postcard compers. On the 19th April 2008, Midastouch reported that she’d received a random text message from ‘Dave’, who we’ll call the mystery mobile man. She soon learnt that the mystery mobile man had found her details, including mobile number, off a postcard that they’d bought off eBay. Further details emerged that the postcard was one sent to PO Box 222, Hayes for a Pick Me Up Magazine competition last year.
Loquax compers, concerned by this event, turned detective and soon discovered postcards can be bought on eBay. One enquiry about the postcards being sold resulted in one user being told that the postcards have “all been used as comp entries so have address in panel, stamp and answer and address of sender on left hand side” and that the most common source was “Take a Break”.
In order to find out more some users bought postcards off eBay. In one set they discovered postcards dated from 2003 “that are from chat and take a break competitions” and that “there has been no attempt to cover up the sender details”! Furthermore the postcards had been “given to a charity in order to remove the stamps to raise money”.
Another set of postcards has raised more concern though as they contained postcards for competitions running around Christmas 2007!
In a time when identity fraud is prevalent, handling houses for competitions have to ensure that they treat entries in a responsible manner. This is a major data protection issue and currently attempts are being made by users to gravitate the issue from a comping level to a more national stage.
The time and effort put in by a number of compers to unearth this situation has to be commended. Hopefully it will result in postcards from offline competitions being disposed of sensibly, and keeping within data protection laws.