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We were bombarded with creepy texts after giving our numbers out for NHS Track and Trace – it's a gateway for sex pests

NANNY Kat Kingsley was not in the habit of giving out her phone number to random strangers before the pandemic struck – but new NHS Track and Trace rules have given her no choice.

And days after handing over her personal information to an older male ticket seller at a popular tourist attraction last month, she was bombarded with creepy text messages that left her fearing for her safety.

Kat, 25, is now one of scores of women warning that the system designed to stop Covid-19 from spreading has become a gateway for sex pests.

And she fears it could lead to someone being assaulted or even murdered if the rules are not changed.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, she says she has started a petition calling on the government to ban bars and restaurants from keeping people’s personal information on bits of paper.  

Here she, and other victims of the new system, share their stories…

'The system as it stands is a gateway for sex pests and psychopaths'

Kat, from Maidenhead, Berks, warns: “I was about to go to bed when I received the texts and I stared at my phone for 10 minutes after seeing them, I was in shock.

“You never think this is going to happen to you and the messages were so creepy. The guy said he had been thinking about me for three days.

“What was even worse was that he mentioned the name of the four-year-old child I was caring for in one message and that meant I had to inform his parents.

“I was literally shaking with anxiety as I made that call because it is not the type of conversation you want to have with your employer.

“There is no way I would have handed over my phone number to this guy, who looked like he was in his 30s, were it not for Track and Trace.

“To text someone from a number you have stolen is out of order.

“And I do feel that if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone and what will happen next? The system as it stands is a gateway for sex pests and psychopaths.”

What was even worse was that he mentioned the name of the four-year-old child I was caring for in one message and that meant I had to inform his parents.

Kat was boarding an open top bus run by the Original Tour company when she was asked to write down her name and phone number to meet government requirements on Thursday, September 10.

The friendly ticket seller, who told her he was from Italy as they exchanged a few pleasantries, also took a picture of her and the child she was caring for as he waved goodbye.

The following Sunday, the unnamed man who has since been fired, sent a long and rambling message stating, “You have been living in my head for 3 days".

In broken English, he wrote on WhatsApp: “Basically, the other day after you left I felt silly keep looking around to see if I could spot you again.

“Yesterday they sent me again to (redacted) and I felt even more silly realising I was still hoping to see you. Along with the idea of this stupid message you’ve been living in my head (not really good conditions but the rent is cheap and there is plenty of free room) for 3 days now, sweet (redacted). Joking joking joking!

“So today I decided to stop being silly and go fully stupid and write you, knowing all the risk involved in using data that’s not supposed to be for me.

"Don’t get me wrong, mainly I’m just so zealous and professional to test, in advance, a totally random phone number to see if it is correct in case the NHS will need it in future.

“Anyway, apart all the due apologies you owe me for all this silliness and stupidity you generated in me.

"I need you to tell me something to make me finally realise that that smile wasn’t that gorgeous and its not really you, but the fact that I like all kats in general.

“Some examples you can copy paste to make it short – My soul and body belong to the sea. – My religion doesn’t allow me to have any sort of relationship with anybody I meet for the first time on Thursday. – I’ve been preparing all my life for you and this moment and now, finally, I realised that I’m a lesbian….

"I would prefer to be kidnapped by a bunch of long-winded aliens who communicate by farts rather than hear you again. – I’m allergic to those who start a message saying “basically”. – My one way flight to North Korea leaves in 50 minutes and I’m already late. – F*** off.”

Track and Trace, which is also known as NHS Test and Trace, was made a legal requirement last month with all leisure, tourism and close contact services such as hairdressers and nail salons now told to keep customer’s personal information so they can be contacted in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

All business owners are supposed to ensure they have a secure method for storing the data before it is passed on to a Test and Trace team then destroyed within 21 days – and failure to comply can result in a fine between £1000 and £4000.

Original Tour said it had launched an investigation as it "takes the matter extremely seriously". The company added if the incident was "proven from our investigation, this is totally unacceptable" and it would take appropriate action.

A spokesman said: "It goes against the values of our organisation entirely."

But Kat is not the only person saying they have been put at risk…

'Massive invasion of privacy'

University of West Scotland student Toni Drummond was having a weekend away with her friend Molly Mactavish, 19, when she was targeted in Edinburgh on September 12.

Toni, 20, from Glasgow, said: “We went to dinner at around 6pm and had to write our name and number on a little card on the table at the front.

“After that we went to an Irish pub and when we sat down the woman behind the bar asked us to shout out our names and phone numbers so she could write them down.

“Two days later, on the Monday, I got a message from a man saying, ‘Oh Toni, you missed a really good night in Edinburgh after you left'.

“I said, ‘Who is this? I didn’t give my number to anyone in Edinburgh'. He said, ‘Oh sorry it must be the wrong number'.

“I said, ‘Did you take my number off Track and Trace?’

What is Track and Trasce and how does it work?

The contact-tracing app is designed to let users know if they have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for coronavirus.

The purpose of the app is to track down people who have been in contact with an infected person and alert them to self-isolate.

The app keeps track of people you have been in contact with through Bluetooth signals.

If that person tests positive for the virus you will be informed and told to self-isolate.

Users of the app can voluntarily opt-in to record details of their symptoms when they start to feel unwell.

“We both have boyfriends and we were social distancing in Edinburgh, so I knew I hadn’t handed out my number to a random guy.

“After that his number and face completely disappeared from WhatsApp. I think he must have deleted his account.

“Track and Trace is a massive invasion of privacy and right now you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

“If you don’t hand your number over you are putting people at risk of coronavirus, but if you do there’s a chance that some creepy guy will text – or even show up at your house.”

'I was working the night you came in… you're gorgeous'

Model Lucy Dixon, 32, from Leamington Spa, Warwicks, became one of the first Track and Trace victims in early September after she used her phone to scan a QR code, a digital system designed to record personal information.

The next day she was contacted by a bar worker called Tom who wrote: “I was working the night you came in, you’re gorgeous x”

Lucy pointed out that he was breaking General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules and said afterwards: “Currently getting to the bottom of how and why this has happened.

"Surely these are meant to be secure databases, no?”

'This random man would know my name, number and home address'

Bar worker Eilidh Anthoney also received unsolicited text messages.

She was buying a late night snack from a doner kebab restaurant in Glasgow on September 21 when she was asked to leave her contact info for the Track and Trace system.

Later, at just before 1am, she received a text message from a man claiming to be a pilot from Dubai.

The message read: “Sorry For disturbing. I don’t know how to say this.

"I got your number from the donor (sic) restaurant when I was with my friend and I saw the last names in that list so I knew it was your number or your friend’s number.

“I’m Moos from Dubai and both of us are pilots we came here for 2 nights only and if you guys want to join tomorrow night at IVY bar or any place will be great and we’ll buy drinks.”

The man continued to message Eilidh, who has a boyfriend, even after she turned down his advances.

She said: “There were no other customers in the building that we were aware of anyway, which makes me feel like my friend and I may have been getting watched – which is just creepy.

“I’m just glad we weren’t asked for addresses etc as this random man would now know my full name, my contact number and my home address.

"It’s really spooked me if I’m being honest and I just want to spread awareness about it.”

'This is completely inappropriate'

ITN Productions Managing Editor Nicola Keaney, 30, was also sent a “creepy” text by a manager at a restaurant she had visited with friends.  

The text read: “Hi Nicola, the Government has fully endorsed you as a potential match for me so the next step is to arrange a drink, NHS Track and Trace.”

Keaney, from St. Albans, Hertfordshire, wrote back: “This is completely inappropriate please don’t contact any woman like this. It’s a huge breach of GDPR.”

And we can reveal that con artists are also exploiting Track and Trace.

The internet is awash with stories of the dodgy text messages people received after handing over their contact information.

Bobby Brougham wrote on Twitter: “I’ve had more scam texts in the last week since giving my details in for track and trace than ever before, personal data is never safe.”

Another Twitter user called Elisha wrote: “Anybody else receiving scam calls/texts after giving your information to track and trace?? Me and all my family haven’t been left alone.”

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo says people are right to be wary of the new system.

She said: “It is now a legal requirement for bars and restaurants to take this information but they haven’t been given enough guidance on how to keep people safe, so from a data protection point of view its’ a complete nightmare.

“We have been contacted by a number of women who have had similar experiences to the people in your report and it’s very worrying.

“Women say they want to have choice over whether to leave their details but, with the way the system is designed now, that choice has been stripped away from them.”

'There are huge dangers associated with this'

Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, is now calling on people to download the NHS Covid-19 app as this prevents the need to write down your information on bits of paper.

Yet the app has been riddled with problems and he admits that not everyone has been able to access it.

He said: “I think there are huge dangers associated with writing your name and phone number on a scrap of paper at the front of a bar or restaurant.

“I’ve just been into my local Morrisons supermarket and I used the app to go into the café, but the person behind me didn’t have it so had to use a bit of paper.

“If you do that anyone can copy your personal information and that is a serious problem.

“You wouldn’t hand your phone number out to anyone and businesses need to make sure this information is kept confidential.

“I am recommending that my constituents download the app because, although I am against the 10pm curfew, it’s really important that we help control this disease.”

Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of the UK Hospitality trade association, said: “Test and Trace details are still subject to GDPR requirements, so venues must be diligent when they take customer details.

“The move to the Test and Trace app should provide a safe and secure way of collecting the data. As long as a QR code is available, and it is a requirement that it is, then there shouldn’t be any danger of personal info being misused.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The unauthorised use of customers’ information provided for contact tracing is unacceptable and every business must comply with all data protection legislation.

“The NHS Covid-19 app is a secure way of checking in at a venue and has been downloaded 16 million times so far.”

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