Data Protection Commissioner
Data Protection Commissioner

Data Protection Day 28th January 2011

Data Protection Commissioner issues warning about phone scammers

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes is taking the opportunity on the 5th Council of Europe Data Protection Day to remind organisations of their data protection responsibilities.  Every organisation, whether in the public or the private sector, must respect the confidence placed in it by members of the public who hand over their personal data.  Every customer, client and employee has the right to full control over the use of their personal information.  Personal information is a valuable resource and processing it is a privilege earned by respecting the rights of individuals. 

Members of the public must also be on guard to protect their personal information from criminal gangs and other organisations that purposefully set out to engage in fraud or mis-use.  In that regard, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is calling on all households to be particularly vigilant when receiving phone calls from organisations "out of the blue" offering to fix problems that the householder did not know existed.

Specifically, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and Microsoft Ireland would like to warn people of a scam that remains active in the Irish marketplace.  Irish consumers are receiving telephone calls from persons claiming to be from Microsoft, or working on behalf of Microsoft, to tell them they have a virus on their computer. 

Details of the Scam:

  • Consumers are cold called from someone claiming to be from Microsoft and told there is a problem with their computer and offered help to solve the computer problems. 
  • Once the caller has gained the consumer's trust, they ask consumers to log onto a website to download a file to help solve the problem.
  • They then ask for credit card details to pay for software which will fix the virus and also potentially attempt to steal from the person by accessing personal information on their computer.  In addition to gaining access to your personal details, they can also infect your computer with damaging viruses and spyware. 

Deputy Data Protection Commissioner, Gary Davis indicated "Our Office has received ongoing complaints and queries from unsuspecting members of the public who have received these calls.  This would appear to be a major scam targeting Ireland and people need to be aware of the issue.  Together with the Gardaí, Comreg and the National Consumer Agency we have sought to highlight the issue to ensure that consumers do not fall victim.  We are making progress in identifying an Irish link to these calls and intend to bring prosecutions.  In the meantime the best answer is to hang up if receiving such a call and if you have provided details of your credit card to any entity on foot of such a call, we would advise you to contact your credit card provider immediately.

Speaking on the issue Paul Rellis, General Manager, Microsoft Ireland said, "Microsoft takes the privacy and security of all our customers and partners' personal information very seriously. We are advising customers to treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and not to provide any personal information to anyone over the phone or online. Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We can assure you Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls".


More information on this scam and how consumers can protect themselves is available here:


Note to Editors:

The Council of Europe has decided that each year there should be a special day dedicated to Data Protection. The 28 January is the anniversary of the opening for signature of the Council of Europe's Data Protection Convention. This is the fifth year that countries across Europe and indeed beyond have marked the day by increasing awareness of data protection and privacy rights. More information on Council of Europe Data Protection Day can be found at:

Media Queries:   

Office of the Data Protection Commissioner


Diarmuid Hallinan

Telephone   (057) 868 4791

Alison Mills (Q4 Public Relations)
Tel:  (01) 475 1444
Mob:  (086) 851 2890

28th January 2011