Indian call center staff sold data, TV show says

U.K. documentary shows middlemen offering to sell credit card details, but Indian IT body defends offshoring.

An undercover TV investigation claims to have infiltrated criminal gangs selling thousands of U.K. credit card and passport details for as little as $9.50 each from offshore call centers.

The "Dispatches" documentary, shown on U.K.'s Channel 4, follows a 12-month investigation. It included footage of middlemen offering an undercover reporter the credit card details gleaned from Indian call centers of 100,000 U.K. bank customers.

But Indian IT trade organization Nasscom criticized Channel 4 for refusing to show it any of the footage before it was broadcast on Thursday evening. It urged the program makers to cooperate in rooting out and prosecuting any "corrupt" call center workers.

"The whole issue of data security is a global problem," said Sunil Mehta, a vice president at Nasscom. "There are bad apples in every industry around the world, and these incidents happen in India and the U.K. This is not a widespread problem in India. Security measures and practices that Indian companies have are the best in the world."

Mehta said in the case of recent high-profile incidents of Indian call center security breaches--such as that focused on bank HSBC--the criminals were identified and arrested within three weeks and are now awaiting trial. He also pointed to Indian initiatives such as a national registry designed to vet call center and IT workers and a regulatory body to improve the level of security in the industry.

"India is doing all it can to stay ahead of this," Mehta said. "We need to deal with this."

At the same time, the United Kingdom's largest private-sector trade union, Amicus, is calling for a government committee inquiry into the security of financial-services work being sent overseas to countries such as India.

David Fleming, national secretary of Amicus, said the union has "serious concerns" about the security of overseas call centers and that a clear business case for offshoring has yet to be made.

"We need to look at long-term implications for the U.K. economy," Fleming said in a statement. "To date, there is no evidence to suggest that offshoring benefits customers. But there is evidence that shows the negative effect of offshoring on those who lose their jobs and the existing U.K. work forces that have to deal with dissatisfied customers."

Andy McCue of reported from London.

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