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Pretexting to Gain Reporters’ Phone Records – Scandal at H-P September 8, 2006

Posted by The PR Cassandra in Posts.

This has been breaking for a few days.  It appears that in order to track a purported leak to news media by someone on Hewlett-Packard Co.’s board, the chairwomen initiated an investigation, without the board’s knowledge. 

As embarrassing and bad as that is, apparently in the investigation process, outside investigators used “pretexting” to gain access to board members’ private phone numbers.  Even worse, this was done to a number of journalists, who were so informed today.

Pretexing is so new, there are various comments about how to prosecute for it in the articles on the H-P situation.  Here is an explanation from the Federal Trade Commission:

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act prohibits “pretexting,” the use of false pretenses, including fraudulent statements and impersonation, to obtain consumers’ personal financial information, such as bank balances. This law also prohibits the knowing solicitation of others to engage in pretexting. The Commission has been active in bringing cases to halt the operations of companies and individuals that allegedly practice pretexting and sell consumers’ financial information.

For a fuller explanation of pretexting, how to protect yourself against it, and what to do if you suspect you are a victim, please click here.

To see the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: Subtitle B – Fraudulent Access to Financial Information, the law that prohibits pretexting, click here.

You may find additional information about the Commission’s efforts to stop pretexting by reading our press releases, or reviewing our reports & testimony.

With the media as victims, here’s hoping that heads will roll.  We cannot lose confidentiality of journalist sources and to see this at one of most revered tech companies, is disappointing to say the least.  Not good business.  And not good PR.  It will be interesting to see how H-P responds and what it communicates.  Currently, it is communicating that it finds this distressful – but what actions will be taken?  And, where is the moral compass for those in high positions?  Think, people!!



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