INDIA: Paper buys credit card data from call centres

British tabloid report says outsourced bank centers are selling sensitive information

The Straits Times
Friday, June 24, 2005

By P. Jayaram

New Dehli --- Britons' confidential data, including information about their credit cards, is being sold by criminals from call centres in India, according to a British newspaper.

The Sun reported yesterday that it had bought sensitive data of 1,000 Britons for just 3 (S$9.20) each. It identified the supplier as a computer expert in Delhi who said his sources were working in call centres.

Companies in the developed world often outsource customer service to call centres in India and other countries with low labour costs.

The daily said its reporter obtained credit cards and personal data which could be used to raid victims' accounts.

The Sun said institutions targeted included many of Britain's top banks. The call centre worker offered to provide 200,000 account details a month, according to the daily.

City of London police say they are investigating.

In India, the top software trade lobby, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), was seeking more details of the alleged breach. It said yesterday it would work with the British and Indian authorities to ensure such data is kept securely, and to bring criminals to justice.

Delhi police said they were waiting for a request for assistance from the London police.

'The investigations would have to start with the reporter of the newspaper, as he would be in a position to supply us with all details,' a senior police official told The Straits Times.

Outsourcing is a multi-billion-dollar industry in India, employing hundreds of thousands, but it has been blamed for large-scale job losses in developed countries.

A top official at India's Ministry of Information Technology said the government is aware of the risk of misuse of confidential data.

The ministry said a committee is reviewing the IT Act to tighten loopholes and stiffen penalties, the official said.

A call centre executive said his company puts great emphasis on data protection. He said employees are banned from recording details on notepads. A compliance team monitors all transactions and any notes are shredded at the end of each shift.

Nasscom pointed out that the problem of data theft is 'not unique' to any nation. 'Each of us has a responsibility to take on the criminals.

'India... is a country that takes this responsibility extremely seriously,' it said.