What Happens To Used Competition Postcards?

Posted on: April 29th, 2008 by Jason 10 Comments

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.

Join The Conversation

  • marymod

    Under data protection laws, I would think that the companies running competitions have a duty of care to protect personal information. By simply disposing of them to a charity, but still containing personal data they have failed in that duty of care. Similarly the charity have failed in my humble opinion. Imagine the furore if this were a bank disposing of personal data in this way.

  • car01e

    this has made me think carefully about what i put on postcard entries. although i choose to enter them i will from now on putting only mobile number, no titile eg mrs, and only my first name initial not full name. i also will be changing the day and month of my birth.

    its very worrying especially for kids comps.

    i hope this matter is taken up by the likes of watchdog. well done for all the loquats who have taken the trouble to buy these postcards and im glad the problem has been brought to our attention.


  • MidwichCuckoo

    Thanks to the Loquats who paid for the hard evidence (postcards) for the benefit of all here. I’m not a big postcard comper, but Midastouch’s experience whooshed through my mind (a strange and arduous journey) yesterday as I posted a couple.

    If this was a film, Midastouch would now be engaged to ‘Dave’ (sorry Midas)…that chap has no idea just how (in)famous he actually is, lol.

  • LaLupa

    According to IPC Media’s Promotions’ Department, their magazine entry forms are disposed of correctly as per the Data Protection Act in that thay are held for three months then shredded. The postcards, however, seem to have come from outside promoters who advertise their competitions in these magazines. In any case they are still obliged to destroy the data after three months by shredding. The information has been forwarded to ‘Watchdog’, the ICO (Data Protection), and newspapers The Daily Mail and The Sun. At the moment of writing, no reply has been received. If nothing is forthcoming, then I feel we will have no other option than to compile a written report and submit it to the Police who, I feel, have a duty to investigate this breach of the Data Protection Act.

  • rum truffle

    I have always wondered what happened to the postcards for comp entries and now I know! Not entirely surprised that they have ended up on Ebay though (who would want them?). The info I put on the postcard comps I do can be obtained in other ways so I am not overly bothered that they are being sold on and I feel to a degree that it is a risk you have to take if you want to enter comps by post.

  • “The info I put on the postcard comps I do can be obtained in other ways so I am not overly bothered”

    Perhaps, but then with identity theft an issue these days, surely it’s better to eliminate such risks? The handlers have a responsible to treat your data professionally, and if it’s ending up on eBay then that’s not imo appropriate.


  • jodeme

    I think the whole point of this excercise is to highlight the fact that it is a breach of trust more than anything. After just having someone transfer £4.900 plus interest of £147 to my credit card I can understand people’s reservations about data protection.After all the discussion about the charity shops and now this, I am rapidly loosing my faith in human nature. Are there no depths some people will sink to to make money.?

  • LaLupa

    IPC Media are taking the matter extremely seriously, and their legal department are well on the case. They also have the name and address of the ebay seller. Other magazine publishers have now been contacted. Apart from one set of postcards addressed to a pharmacy in Manchester, the main problem seems to arise from PO Box 222, Hayes, Middlesex. UB3 1YX. There is a company called Parkes Printing Ltd that have this box number, and am checking with the Post Office if they are the sole box holder. So people are now listening, and taking notice.

  • rum truffle

    I agree the handlers of comps are responsible for the data they collect but your name and address can be obtained in so many ways nowadays that I can undersatnd why they are complacent with the info. I would be more concerned if my local supermarket were passing on my details as they know alot about a person from the data they collect everytime they swipe a card. If you don’t want to have a risk of having your identity stolen then you need to live in a very different world to the one in which nearly all of us live. I would be horrified if my identity was stolen but I know it is one of the risks that I take everytime I fill in a form, swipe a card or go online.

  • LaLupa

    IPC Media have informed us that –

    "the problem has been located and dealt with.
    Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention".

    Seemingly, the handling house at PO Box 222, Hayes, that dealt with competition entries is no longer being used by either IPC Media or H. Bauer Publishing. So it looks very much like we have stopped the postcards being leaked from that source. Still waiting for a response from ICO. When they do get back to us, all the information will be presented to them to deal with.