Indian callcentre workers charged with Citibank fraud

Could have happened in the US anyway, says Indian group

Three former employees of a callcentre in Pune, India, were arrested this week on charges of defrauding four Citibank account holders in New York to the tune of US$300,000 (NZ$420,000), according to a police official in Pune.

The former employees of Mphasis BPO, the business process outsourcing operation of Bangalore software and services company Mphasis BFL Group, are charged with collecting and misusing account information from customers they dealt with as part of their work at the callcentre, according to Sanjay Jadhav, chief of the cybercrime cell of the Pune police.

"Either in goodwill or on false pretenses, they also obtained the PINs from these account holders in the course of their work," says Jadhav. The three former employees and their accomplices then used the services of SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) to transfer funds from these accounts to their own accounts and fake accounts that were created for this purpose in Pune, he adds.

Mphasis officials declined to comment on the developments.

The police acted on a complaint from Citibank who in turn were alerted when account holders noticed suspicious transactions in their accounts, Jadhav says. Citibank officials were not immediately available for comment.

Police have arrested 12 people, of which three were employees of Mphasis BPO in Pune until December last year. When they quit their jobs, the three employees carried with them the details of the four accounts, and used a number of subterfuges including false email accounts and the account details to transfer funds into accounts in Pune, according to Jadhav. "We caught one of them on Monday when he came to a bank in Pune to enquire about one of the accounts," he says. "After that we were able to arrest the others."

The outsourcing of call center and other business processes from the US and UK to Indian companies has been criticised by many organisations in the US and UK, including workers' unions complaining about loss of jobs as a result of offshore outsourcing. One of the key issues that has been raised is the danger of data theft and misuse.

The threat of data theft and misuse is no higher in India than in other countries, including the US, according to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) in Delhi. The organisation maintains that Indian outsourcing companies have adequate security systems in place. It is not known, however, how the employees of Mphasis BPO were able to get away with data and misuse it.

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