Thousands of taxpayers' personal details potentially exposed online through councils' debt-chasing texts

Thousands of taxpayers' personal details potentially exposed online through councils' debt-chasing texts

Exclusive Bulk SMS messages sent by local councils across the UK contained weblinks leading to pages that freely exposed to the public thousands of taxpayers' names, addresses, and outstanding debts, The Register can reveal.


Text messages sent by Telsolutions Ltd on behalf of a dozen local authorities contained shortlinks to webpages urging council tax defaulters to pay up – and in a dozen cases seen by The Register there was little or no authentication protecting personal data from prying eyes.

Sent in bulk by around a dozen councils, the messages have reached thousands of defaulters and late payers, although the loophole allowing the data leak has since been closed.


Government statistics [PDF, 16 pages, table 2] show that in England around 3 per cent of council taxes by value were not collected during financial year 2019/20.

Faced with defaulters, councils have turned to text messages for chasing those who haven't paid on time. As Barnet Council put it: "The Council Tax Service will send SMS text messages, emails and recorded voice messages to you if your Council Tax account falls in to arrears."



An SMS sent to one of our readers



As part of that service, many councils around the UK use contractors to send those messages. One of those contractors is Telsolutions – and Register reader Jim was very concerned when his council sent him a message with a link in the format textm[.]co/abcde.


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