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Small Study Suggests Call Center Data at Risk


TMCnews Featured Article

March 30, 2009

Small Study Suggests Call Center Data at Risk

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Companies all over the world must pay close attention to how they gather, use and store data. Whether that data is simply internal information or it is personal information relating to customers, it must be protected or the company risks violating regulations and losing customers.

Contact centers are no different. Their approach to gathering and using data must adhere to strict guidelines. This is especially true when hiring and training new employees as these individuals will have access to this information and could pose a risk for customers and the company.
Now, new research by the University of Strathclyde suggests that Scottish contact centers are vulnerable to data theft. A survey was taken by 45 workers in contact centers across Glasgow. Results suggest that there is evidence of a serious threat the security.

Surprisingly, this survey revealed that staff were secretly stealing customer details, forgetting to ask basic security questions and were regularly offered bribes by criminal gangs to hand over confidential information.

Contact center workers participating in the survey reported the use of mobile camera phones, e-mails and even crossword puzzles to smuggle out lucrative data. In addition, 11 percent of these employees allowed customers access to accounts without going through the necessary security questions.

The survey findings also suggest that 22 percent of contact center employees were working with people they thought were suspicious. Another 6 percent of employees had been offered money in exchange for information.

Dr. George Weir of the university’s department of computer and information sciences noted that while the study was on a small scale and could not give a full picture of all call centers, it does indicate that there is cause for concern. 

Weir said in a CCF report: "I expected to find a lot more precautions in place. I was surprised at the suggested prevalence of suspicious activity. I couldn't believe people were allowed to take notes they made at their desks out of the centre. It's such an easy way to steal information."

The size of this study does not necessarily point to a large margin of error. Instead, it highlights the likely instance of risky behavior of call and contact center employees and the flippant approach to such activities.

It is quite possible that call center leaders are either making it too easy for employees to smuggle information, or they are failing to convey to employees the importance of protecting that information. Either way, customers are at risk.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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