Confidential personal data on hundreds of thousands of Britons is being touted by corrupt Indian call centre workers, an undercover investigation has discovered.
Credit card information, medical and financial records are being offered for sale to criminals and marketing firms for as little as 2p.
Two ‘consultants’, claiming to be IT workers at several call centres, met undercover reporters from The Sunday Times and boasted of having 45 different sets of personal information on nearly 500,000 Britons.
Data included names, addresses, and phone numbers of credit card holders, start and expiry dates as well as the three-digit security verification codes.
The information – much of which related to customers at major financial companies, including HSBC and NatWest - would be a goldmine for criminals, allowing fraudsters to syphon thousands of pounds from bank accounts within minutes.
IT consultant Naresh Singh met the undercover reporters in a hotel room in Gurgaon, a town near Delhi, carrying a laptop full of data.
He told them: ‘These [pieces of data] are ones that have been sold to somebody already. This is Barclays, this is Halifax, this is Lloyds TSB. We’ve been dealing so long we can tell the bank by just the card number.’
He said that much of the data would be less than 72 hours old, adding: ‘They would just have got the credit card and not only credit cards, that would be debit card as well.’
Other information being hawked around by unscrupulous workers was sensitive material about mortgages, loans, insurance, mobile phone contracts, Sky Television subscriptions, according to The Sunday Times sting.
The data would enable direct marketing companies to target customers more effectively.
Call centres are a £3.2 billion industry in India, with an estimated 330,000 people employed by them.
Many British companies have outsourced services to the India, but a public backlash over the use of foreign workers has seen some withdrawn.
Spanish bank Santander, which owns Abbey, announced last year it would no longer use Indian call centres.
Indian authorities say their efforts to combat corruption have been hampered by the unwillingness of companies, keen to avoid negative publicity, reporting data losses.
The Government is now being called on to take action against widespread reports of data insecurity.
Conservative member of the Commons’ public accounts select committee, Richard Bacon MP, said this was not only a matter for the organisations involved but also the authorities.
He called on the British Government to investigate the latest allegations.