Empowering the Freelance Economy

Umbrella contractors: do you think your data has been leaked?



An estimated 28,000 contractors that use services provided through Optionis Group, the private equity-backed payroll and accounting group, are not only seriously concerned about continued late payments but having their personal data sold on the dark web.

Optionis owns umbrella companies including Parasol, and operates a number of contractor-focused accountancy firms, including Nixon Williams and SJD Accountancy, all understood to be tackling the after-effects of a January ransomware attack.

An Optionis Group spokesperson emailed The Freelance Informer with the following statement regarding the cyberattack and suspected leaked contractor data:

We can confirm that we recently suffered a cyber security incident. With the help of external cyber security experts, we have been conducting an urgent investigation and we now believe that those responsible have released some information online that was extracted from our systems.

We are investigating the precise nature of this information as a priority and are communicating with those who may have been impacted. We would like to thank our partners, clients and employees for their ongoing patience and support as we continue to respond to this incident.

In relation to late payments for umbrella company workers, the spokesperson said:

“It has always been our first priority to ensure all our umbrella employees are paid as soon as possible. Our payroll system is now fully operational, which means all employees are receiving pay calculated in the usual way, and on their normal pay day. Any outstanding amounts owed are also being reconciled.”

The Freelance Informer contacted the group’s investors Sovereign Capital, which has been invested in the business since 2014. The investor passed on a list of questions we had for them to Optionis’ PR firm. The Freelance Informer, therefore, does not have a direct statement from the investors addressing if Optionis is able to keep up its loan facilities nor any measures that it is taking to ensure that Optionis Group umbrella contractors are:

  • paid on time and in the future
  • how they, as investors, have asked Optionis to address industry claims of umbrella company misconduct so that they are either stopped or rectified. 

If you are an umbrella company worker that is now finding it difficult to leave your umbrella company, for any reason, please bring this to light on The Freelance Informer’s social media channels.

What is a Protective Registration?

If you are worried your personal details have been stolen or have you noticed any unusual account activity or if you are an umbrella company worker and have been informed that it has recently lost or leaked sensitive data, you may be at risk of becoming a victim of identity fraud.

For £25 services, such as Cifas can provide you with what is called a Protective Registration service which reduces that risk. Cifas is a not-for-profit fraud prevention membership organisation. Its members are organisations from all sectors, sharing their data across those sectors to reduce instances of fraud and financial crime.

How does a Protective Registration protect my data and identity?

When you request Protective Registration, Cifas places a “warning flag” against your name and other personal details in its National Fraud Database.

“This tells any organisation that uses Cifas data to pay special attention when your details are used to apply for their products or services. Knowing you’re at risk, they’ll carry out extra checks to make sure it’s really you applying, and not a fraudster using your details.”

Does Cifas Protective Registration affect my credit score?

No. It is a fraud prevention measure and not a form of insurance against losses caused by fraud.

Who is eligible?

Not everyone is eligible. Cifas Protective Registration is only for people whose identities are at heightened risk. The service works by prompting Cifas members to carry out extra checks to prove your identity to prevent further fraud.

“This can mean that genuine applications take slightly longer to process while checks are carried out,” said Cifas.

The Cifas Protective Registration will remain in place for 24 months unless you request its removal. You will not receive an email notification when the registration is due to expire.

Identity Protection | Prevent Personal Fraud | Cifas

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