BBC says UK credit card information for sale in India

Nearly all names sold to the undercover BBC team were valid, but most credit card numbers invalid

Reporters from the BBC posing as fraudsters claim they bought names, addresses and valid credit card details of UK residents from a man the BBC identified as Saurabh Sachar in Delhi.

Two BBC undercover reporters met the broker in a Delhi coffee shop for an encounter that was filmed secretly, according to a report on the BBC website that was also broadcast.

Sachar told the reporters that he could supply them with hundreds of credit and debit card details each week at a cost of US$10 dollars a card. He said some of the numbers had been obtained from call centres handling mobile phone sales, or payments for phone bills, the BBC said.

After the reporters agreed to initially buy the details of 50 cards, the man handed over a list of 14. He said the remainder would be sent later by email. Back in the UK, the broker continued to supply card details to one of the undercover reporters by email, the BBC said.

Nearly all of the names, addresses and post codes sold to the BBC team were valid, the BBC said. But most of the numbers attached to them were invalid — often out by a single digit, it added.

Three of the persons whose details were provided to the undercover reporters had bought software from Symantec by giving their credit card details to a call centre over the phone.

APACS, the UK trade association for the payments industry, said in a report released on Thursday that card fraud losses totalled £609.9 million (US$874 million) last year. There are two main areas of fraud. First, criminals use the numbers of stolen credit cards in transactions not protected by chip and PIN (personal identification number), specifically via the internet, phone and regular mail. The second type involves the physical use of stolen credit cards abroad by criminals in countries yet to upgrade to chip and PIN.

The outsourcing of work to Indian call centres and BPO (business process outsourcing) companies has been often criticised in the UK. Besides cutting into jobs in the UK, outsourcing to India could compromise the UK's tough data protection laws, critics have said.

The Amicus trade union in the UK, now merged into Unite trade union, warned in 2004 that offshoring is "an accident waiting to happen."

Indian call centres claim that they have introduced technology and restrictions to prevent data theft. Offices are under electronic surveillance, and employees are not allowed to carry in paper or mobile phones, and they can't access the internet while at work.

There have been some complaints lodged with the Indian police in the past about data thefts at call centres, but the Indian call centre industry holds that the incidents are far fewer than in other countries including the UK and the US.

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