Massive Call Centre Fraud

by Moshe Yudkowsky

I use the "Centre" spelling in the article title with malice aforthought, since the news item is out of India, discusses an upcoming documentary to be shown on Britain's Channel 4, and reports the reaction of the Australian public. A article in The Hindu News Update Service states the British documentary will show personal banking information — including account information — bought and sold on the streets of India. According to the report, Australians would prefer to bank at financial institutions that keep their financial data on-shore rather than off-shore.

I have to admit that my first thought after I read this article was "how can VoIP fix this?" Certainly VoIP an/or cheap telephony is part of the problem; that's likely how the calls went overseas in the first place. Almost inevitably, the data followed, and now bank customers may be paying the price.

But before we panic, I'd like to point out that financial data theft happens here in the US; you can buy and sell ATM card information over the Internet. I suspect the real question is whether similar call center leaks happen here in the US — what's the baseline? After all, US call centers are an established industry, handle lots of money, and have a transient work force. I imagine that it's easy enough to steal financial information if you're a call center employee.

But to return to the original question: Can VoIP help instead of making the problem worse? Or will the contnued use of VoIP to drive business to the lowest-cost location inevitably lead to theft, and an inevitable backlash against outsourcing? Or should the VoIP community wash its hands of these problems and pray that someone else fixes them?


Matthew Sporleder
2006-10-06 05:33:54
The point isn't the transient workforce. It's the inability to police a foreign workforce, and regulate the practices of their REAL employer. (since, obviously, it's not the company who hired the company to hire another company, which outsourced that hiring to some other country's fault.)

I'm not sure where you get the VoIP angle.

Moshe Yudkowsky
2006-10-06 06:29:58
Matthew, your remarks are well taken. Allow me to clarify my remarks.

The British found that financial data is sold on the streets of India. Before this blows into a huge scandal about oursouring to India, I'd like to see data on the extent of the problem in the US. Certainly the conditions are ripe for similar criminal activity; that's where I directed my remarks about a transient workforce, where high turnover can allow a criminal an oppotunity to insinuate his or her self into the call center.

Companies that oursource must assume the ultimate reponsiblity for financial data security. I disagree that they're unable to do so; the question is whether or not they're willing to pay for the costs, both financial and cultural, associated with data security.

The VoIP angle is two-fold. First, in some sense, VoIP helped create this problem by making it easier to move call centers offshore. Second, if you believe as I do that VoIP has the power to de-centralize call centers and scatter them hither and yon, in-house and out-sourced, in-country and out-country, then VoIP growth depends on part on data security. I don't know if it's possible, but what can VoIP do to help solve the data security problem? Or is it entirely someone else's responsiblity -- and the VoIP community is helpless to solve problems crucial to its growth?