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UK watchdog to probe Indian call centre security

06 October 2006  |  6426 views  |  0 biometric eye

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office, which is responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, is investigating claims made by Channel 4's Dispatches programme that undercover reporters were able to buy the confidential financial records of British customers from gangs in India.

The programme, which aired last night, showed an undercover TV reporter infiltrating gangs in India that are allegedly selling customer data - including bank account and credit and debit card information - for as little as £8 per customer.

The programme showed a reporter being offered full banking and financial profiles and sensitive information - including credit card numbers and security codes - to be used as "leads". As well as data, the "middlemen" offered voice recordings of customers handing over credit card details, including security codes.

The data was allegedly sourced from an Indian call centre selling mobile phones, rather than a banks call centre, and the criminals claimed to be able to supply information on hundreds of thousands of customers from a number of different contact centres.

David Smith, deputy Information Commissioner, says the focus of the investigation will be the security of personal financial data at call centres in India.

Smith says UK firms that use outsourced call centres are required to ensure the security of data. Any company that failed to do so could be ordered to stop processing personal data outside the UK.

Earlier this week Indian trade assocation Nasscom hit out at Channel 4 for the 'sting operation' and urged the broadcaster to hand over evidence of any data theft. Makers of the programme have so far refused to hand over any details.

Following the airing of the documentary last night, UK trade union Amicus says it has "serious concerns" about the security of work being sent overseas and is calling for a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the offshoring of work to countries such as India.

David Fleming, Amicus national secretary, says employers that transfer work overseas need to be called to account to justify the decision against a back drop of growing job loses and consumer concerns.

"To date there is no evidence to suggest that offshoring benefits customers," says Fleming. "But there is evidence that shows the negative affect of offshoring on those who lose their jobs and the existing UK workforces that have to deal with dissatisfied customers."

In June last year UK daily tabloid The Sun said that an undercover reporter was able to buy personal bank account details from an IT worker in Delhi. News of the Sun's 'sting' operation came just two months after three former employees of Indian BPO firm MphasiS were arrested for allegedly siphoning off $300,000 from Citibank customers after stealing account details while working at an offshore call centre in India.

Earlier this year a worker at HSBC's Bangalore call centre was arrested on suspicion of selling the confidential bank account details of UK customers to fraudsters.

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