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Criminals stealing data from UK call centres: Cops

According to a top police official, up to a tenth of call centres in one city alone have already been targeted by criminal gangs in Britain.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 11:28 IST

Criminal gangs in Britain are infiltrating the call centre industry and stealing personal information, according to the police.

According to a senior police officer, up to a tenth of call centres in one city alone have already been targeted. There are some 5,700 call centres in Britain, meaning nearly 600 could potentially have been infiltrated.

The gangs have reportedly tapped into call centres after realising how easy it is to operate in such a large industry with a high staff turnover.

The fraudsters recruit volunteers to work in the centres who supply them financial information in return for a fee.

In Glasgow, where there are more than 300 centres serving customers across Britain, it is estimated that 10 per cent have been infiltrated.

Other areas with a high concentration of call centres are the West Midlands, the Southeast, the Northwest and Yorkshire.

More than a dozen arrests have been made by the Strathclyde Police in the past year.

Detective chief inspector Derek Robertson of Strathclyde Police told the Daily Mail: "I see this as a national issue. We also know of employees leaving the call centres and being approached and coerced, whether physically, violently or by being encouraged to make some extra money.

"And of course you have the disgruntled employee who may turn their hand to fraud just to benefit themselves.

"The only way to get ahead of the criminal is to pro-actively target the organisation before they recruit their member of staff. We are actively working on that."

A spokesperson for the Customer Contact Association, which represents the industry, said fraud was a concern but steps were being taken to minimise risk.

Trade body the UK Payments Association said it thought the figure of one in ten was high in relation to the banking industry.

"Banking related call centres have financial details about customers all the time so have quite stringent procedures," said a spokesperson.

Call centre workers often earn around 13,000 pounds a year and temporary workers can earn little more than the minimum wage.

More than 700,000 work in the industry in Britain and thousands of jobs have also been transferred to India.

Last year Trade Union Amicus said better safeguards were needed to protect data held in Indian centres.

First Published: Nov 03, 2006 11:24 IST