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Allegations of Theft and Fraud Rising among India-based Call Centers

TMCnews Featured Article

March 20, 2012

Allegations of Theft and Fraud Rising among India-based Call Centers

By Chris Freeburn, TMCnet Web Editor

Handing over personal information, including address, birth date and credit card information, to call center agents in far-distant locations has always given some people pause. Now it appears some of these qualms may have a basis in fact. According to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail, some Indian call center agents have been illicitly collecting personal and financial information provided to them.

The Daily Mail said that the agents are selling that personal data, potentially to scammers. The article said that the personal data of more than 500,000 United Kingdom residents had been compromised.

The Daily Mail reported that personal data had been accumulated for resale by "corrupt Indian call center workers" and had been sold to scammers and various marketing and promotion firms. The article referenced an investigation by Britain’s Sunday Times in which the paper’s undercover reporters spoke to two Indian call center workers who attempted to sell personal data to them and who said they had 45 different sets of financial data relating to United Kingdom residents.

Included in the personal data were names, addresses, phone numbers, start and expiration dates and three-digit security and verification codes for various British credit card holders. The article noted that the information its undercover reporters received came from customers of major financial companies like HSBC and NatWest. With such information, scammers can access a customer’s accounts, draining away savings and checking account funds in seconds.

Bank account data wasn’t the only information available for sale, the article said. Mortgage, loan, insurance policy and cellular phone contract data could also be obtained. Even subscription information from Sky Television customers was offered by the call center agents. While scammers would likely be most interested in the bank account and credit card information, mortgage, loan, insurance and pay-TV information would be of great interest to marketing firms looking to better target their advertising.

One of the Indians reportedly met the undercover reporters in a hotel room in Gurgaon, near Delhi. He was allegedly carrying a laptop full of stolen data.

"These are the ones that have been sold to somebody already. This is Barclays, this is Halifax, this is Lloyds TSB. We've been dealing so long we can tell the bank by just the card number," Naresh Singh, told the newspaper’s undercover reporters in a hotel in Gurgon, India. The article said that Singh stated that some of the information was less than 72 hours old.

Outsourced call center operations have been a significant source of revenue and employment in India, generating $5 billion annually and employing an estimated 330,000 Indian workers, the Daily Mail reported. The report comes on the heels of last month’s U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) action against a California-based firm, which allegedly used an India-based call center to defraud American consumers out of more than $5 million through fraudulent collections calls.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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