Data scammers are trying to get hold of sensitive voter information by pretending to be part of the Brexit campaign group Vote Leave.
HuffPost UK can reveal that the Electoral Commission has sent warnings to councils across the UK urging staff to be vigilant when it comes to sending out the Electoral Register.
The register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in elections, and can only be sent to the official campaign groups.
It also includes details of people who have asked to be hidden from the ‘open register’ – such as victims of domestic abuse – and the information could be used to commit identity fraud.
Digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group warned that while the most likely misuse of the full electoral register would be to send illegal junkmail, there could be more sinister applications.
A spokesperson said: “You can ask to have your details withheld from the public register. If someone were to get hold of this version, there is clearly the risk that it may be used to find someone who does not want to be located – for example, a high profile figure or a domestic abuse survivor.
“There need to be strict controls to make sure this information does not get into the wrong hands.”
The Electoral Commission sent a warning to councils on April 27 highlighting a specific email address which seemed to be assigned to the official Brexit campaign group.
The email said: “We are emailing to let you know that we have become aware that an individual who does not belong to Vote Leave has been requesting copies of the electoral register by purporting to belong to Vote Leave.
“Genuine Vote Leave requests for copies of the electoral register and absent voting lists have also recently been sent by Vote Leave. They have confirmed that all their requests are being sent from and should be sent back to [a Vote Leave email address]
“If you receive any register requests from a different email address purporting to belong to Vote Leave (for example, [HuffPost UK has redacted this email address]), do not supply the register and please contact your local Commission office as soon as possible.”
Another email was sent by the Commission on Tuesday, stating: “We have received several queries from electoral administrators who were concerned that they had received requests for the electoral register from someone who was not authorised to receive a copy on behalf of a registered referendum campaigner.”
An Electoral Commission spokesperson told the HuffPost UK: “We are not currently aware of any instances where the register has in fact been requested or supplied incorrectly.”
A spokesperson for Vote Leave said the matter was for the Electoral Commission to deal with and a spokesperson for the City of London Police said: “Clearly any detailed personal information which falls into the wrong hands could be used by fraudsters to commit a variety of identity crime offences.
“Simple steps can be taken to ensure that your personal details are not compromised in any way.”
For more information on taking steps to prevent identity fraud visit: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/support-and-prevention/protect-yourself-from-fraud and http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/resources-and-campaigns/not-with-my-name