Debt collection employee jailed for instigating M1 officer to gain access to customer data

SINGAPORE - An employee of a debt collection company was jailed for eight weeks on Wednesday (Nov 15) after pleading guilty to instigating a telco employee to gain unauthorised access to confidential customer information.

Tan Jia Liang, 36, who now works as a GrabCar driver, also helped a licensed moneylender get more customers by collecting contacts and making cold calls. He committed the offences to obtain more clients for it.

Tan worked for Exclusive Debt Recovery, which provided services to companies including licensed moneylender Swift Credit. In late December 2014, he got to know Tay Kun Hong, an M1 customer service officer, who had borrowed money from Swift Credit.

Tay offered to sell M1's confidential customer information to Tan, who accepted the offer in early 2015. Tan then sent an attachment with the names and identity card numbers of some individuals to Tay and asked him to check on them.

Tay was promised $1 every time he obtained a contact detail for Tan. Between March 7 and June 24, 2015, Tay accessed M1's database and got information on 183 people.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Haniza Abnass said: "(Tan) accepted the offer because he thought that by obtaining more clients for Swift Credit, it would directly boost Exclusive Debt's business and possibly result in a better salary or bonus for himself."

She added: "If any of the information provided corresponded to an M1 customer in the database, Tay would record that customer's name, contact numbers and addresses from the database and then populate the Excel spreadsheet given by the accused before sending such information to the accused by e-mail."

Tan pleaded guilty to 20 counts of instigating Tay to gain unauthorised access to M1's confidential information. The court heard that 163 other charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.

Tay was earlier convicted of offences that included extracting data for a licensed moneylender and assisting loan sharks. He was sentenced to 17 months' jail with three strokes of the cane. He was also fined $90,000 and ordered to pay a $5,400 penalty.

Tay had access rights to an M1 application system known as Web+, which allows authorised staff to view subscriber details such as their names and contact numbers.

DPP Haniza said such details are confidential.

On Wednesday, defence counsel Josephus Tan, from Invictus Law, told the court that his client was very remorseful.

The lawyer said: "There is no proof of any benefit having actually accrued to (him) from his abetment of his offences."

When The Straits Times asked M1 what it would do to prevent a similar offence from happening again, its spokesman said: "The employee acted outside the course of his employment in undertaking unauthorised use and disclosure of such information, in circumvention of our policies and controls.

"We place the utmost importance on protecting our customers' personal information and continually evaluate our policies and controls to prevent the unauthorised use and disclosure of such information."

First-time offenders convicted of instigating another to gain unauthorised access to confidential information on a computer can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000 for each charge.