Scottish-based car sales giant Arnold Clark is facing multi-million-pound group action claims from thousands of customers following a data breach.

The firm suffered a cyber attack just before Christmas and customers’ personal information has since been published on the dark web.

At the time, bosses insisted that information was safe, but later conceded personal data had been compromised.

Now the Sunday Post says a number of legal firms have launched schemes to help victims.

Data-protection laws state that people can claim compensation from any organisation that breaches those laws, including for any damage or distress caused.

Solicitor Thompsons has been approached by more than 5,000 people who have received a letter from Arnold Clark advising them that their personal data had been compromised.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Patrick McGuire, a partner at the firm, told the Sunday Post: “I think this is the tip of the iceberg. The most financially-sensitive data has been posted on the dark web and certainly includes data that would allow criminals to steal people’s identities and open fraudulent bank accounts. Our clients are understandably very worried.”

Solicitor Jones Whyte has also been contacted by more than 1,000 people who may have been affected and that this number was “continuing to rise by the day”.

Associate Dominic Ritchie, who heads up the data breach claim for the firm, said: “We are in the process of building a strong case and will be looking for significant compensation from Arnold Clark for our clients.”

Arnold Clark, which has its headquarters in Glasgow, has almost 200 dealerships across Scotland and England - several of them in Aberdeen.

The car-sales firm has not said how many customers have been contacted. Those affected have been offered a two-year subscription to an ¬identity-fraud-checking service.

The company said it had taken several steps to protect partners and customers following the cyber attack, including setting up a call centre with its credit-reporting agency partner Experian.

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