Call centre data security back on agenda after HSBC India breach

5th Jul 2006

Concerns about security in India call centres were back on the agenda again this week after a worker at HSBC's Bangalore call centre was arrested after being allegedly caught supplying personal details to fraudsters who went on to steal £230,000 from 16 of the bank's UK customers.

Nadeem Kashmiri had worked for HSBC for less than six months when he was charged with hacking into the company's files and passing on information to allow others to steal the money.He was caught after accessing bank account details that he had no reason to open.

HSBC said yesterday that enough personal details had been passed on to allow the fraudsters - also believed to be in India - to transfer the money to a number of Indian banks. It pledged that all customers affected would be reimbursed and not left out of pocket.

The bank als said that fraud was less of an issue in India than it was in the UK. "The levels of fraud has historically been much lower than we have experienced in the UK,” said a spokesman.

But news of the theft is bound to re-ignite the debate about UK companies offshoring call centre work. Two weeks ago utility company Powergen said it was closing its Indian call centre, blaming a negative effect on customer service.

But that held little truck with union Amicus, whose spokesman said: "If a world player like HSBC is vulnerable to fraud within their overseas call centres, then every organisation outsourcing work is vulnerable, too.

"The news comes immediately after Powergen's wise decision to bring work back to the UK because of customer dissatisfaction. We are urging other companies to re-think their offshoring strategies urgently."

The Indian trade association Nasscom on the other hand was quick to play down the incident, but Nasscom's vice president Sunil Mehta added:"We believe that any case of theft or a breach of a customer's confidentiality must be treated extremely seriously.”

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