‘Devastated’ retired Yorkshire miner fears for his pension after cyber-attack

A retired Yorkshire miner fears for his pension following a cyber-attack at technology giant Capita.

Alex Mathewson dedicated 46 years to the industry but fears he could be left with nothing following a cyber-attack incident in March.

He is worried the incident potentially exposed the personal information of hundreds enrolled in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, which was managed by the outsourcing giant. The 68-year-old from Barnsley, who now suffers chronic knee pain and asthma following years of underground labour, first found out about the breach through media reports in mid-April. His pension provider later contacted those affected.

Alex, who retired in 2015, has enlisted the help of Manchester-based law firm Barings Law to fight his case and the firm has signed up almost 1,000 clients as part of a class action against Capita following the cyber-attack.

Barings Law says it is seeking compensation for the “inconvenience, distress and any potential financial and/or reputational harm” the breach has caused.

Alex says: “It was upsetting that the press knew before I knew.

“When you’ve given nearly 50 years of blood, sweat and tears and then you’re told something like this has happened, you feel let down.

“When I found out, I immediately contacted my bank and building society because I was worried that all I had worked for was at risk.

“I’m quite switched on with technology, but a few of the older miners won’t have had a clue what a breach even is. Most don’t even have internet banking so they wouldn’t know even if they were hacked.”

In 2018, the National Mine Workers Pension Campaign, a group set up for miners of which Alex is a member, raised objections to Capita’s management of the scheme, but their calls for change weren’t actioned.

Yorkshire miner fears for his pension - Alex when he worked as a miner
Alex Mathewson when he worked as a miner

A spokesman for Barings Law said the cyber attack in March targeted people’s pensions which were administered via Capita’s systems, resulting in individuals falling prey to phishing attempts, fraudulent calls and emails purportedly from their providers.

Following the incident, The Pensions Regulator made contact with more than 300 funds, encouraging an investigation into whether their personal data had been compromised.

Barings Law, who officially launched legal proceedings against Capita with a letter of claim last month, had a response from the technology and outsourcing company who ‘robustly’ denied the claims.

Having first gone down the mines at just 16 years old, Alex worked at various collieries including Elsecar, Barnburgh, Selby and concluded his career at Kellingley, the last deep coal mine.

Reflecting on his mining days, he feels that he and his fellow miners were treated as mere commodities and left with multiple health issues.

He added: “It was 800 metres into the mines, and I would then have to take a four-mile train journey alongside 150 other men, followed by a two-mile walk just to reach the coal face. It got to 40 degrees with colleagues occasionally fainting due to dehydration.

“I now live with rheumatoid arthritis, and I’ve had my hips and shoulders replaced since I retired.

“It’s like the rug has been taken from beneath our feet. It’s disgusting that a huge organisation like Capita can let this happen. They’ve handled it terribly.

“When you get to my age you expect to be able to take it easier and enjoy your life, not having to worry about your life’s savings.

“The reason I got in touch with Barings Law is not just for myself. I’m doing this for all my colleagues, all the widows and all the people that have given so much of themselves over the years.”

Alex wants a formal apology from Capita and has urged all those affected by the data breach to speak up and seek justice.

He adds: “Many people would say miners were the backbone of this country. We worked hard and we thought that people looking after the money would do their job.

“We were never greedy men and would generally accept a reasonable living in order to provide for our loved ones. So, when we’re let down like this it really does hurt.

A Capita spokesperson told YorkshireLive: “Having taken extensive steps to recover and secure our data, using third party monitoring we still have found no evidence of any information in circulation, on the dark web or otherwise, more than three months after the cyber incident.

“We are conducting a comprehensive investigation and in line with our previous announcements, we continue to inform those affected by the cyber incident.”