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Foreign Call Centres a Contributing Factor to UK Scams and Frauds
"Have the companies that set up foreign call centres, unwittingly caused the massive fraud problem that the UK is currently experiencing?"

Growing opinion suggests that certain overseas call centres may be at the centre of fraud operations which stretch from countries such as India and the Philippines across the globe.

The international call centre business is murky - the sheer speed of the growth of the industry has led to lack of regulation and serious concerns about security. There is also a growing feeling that as overseas call centres have become a fact of UK life, those who pick up the phone are getting to know our general habits and vulnerabilities, putting our security further at risk.


Just how do criminals get hold of personal information of people living in the UK?

Data breaches affecting companies such as telecommunications providers Talk Talk and BT, together with the banking group HSBC, have led to suspicions that customer details are leaked by members of staff, or sold on by managers to gangs who plan to use the details to carry out scams. To read about actual cases where this has happened, see our article 'UK personal data unprotected by overseas call centres'

Wrongdoing is difficult to prove, and in an industry which is run on behalf of private companies, and does not always fall under banking industry rules, any legislation is difficult to enforce.

UK Police have little power - it is very different if someone working in a UK call centre or based in the UK breaks the law or industry rules!


Why set up call centres overseas in the first place?

UK companies outsource call centres to a number of countries, predominately India, but also the Philippines, Egypt and other African countries. In an investigation undertaken in 2012 by the Daily Mail, it was reported that an estimated 330,000 people are employed in Indian call centres alone, making an industry worth £3.2bn a year. Outsourcing abroad is unfortunately still growing as China is the latest country to become host for call centres that service UK customers.

The reason why overseas call centres exist is simple – to save our household names money. Banks, utility companies, communications providers and financial services such as insurance companies and credit card firms, moved call centres abroad to save money on UK premises and staff. 

Problems arise when staff are not vetted effectively, are poorly-trained, and where management is not aware of, or turns a blind eye to, workers who look to supplement their modest earnings with unscrupulous sharing of information, or end up as vulnerable victims of blackmail.

We can expect an increase in scams coming from China - There is a lack of deterrent to anyone in China thinking of carrying out scams on UK citizens, because there is very little that UK law enforcement can do.

"It’s the experience these people earn from working in the call centres in the first place that enable them to effectively plan and carry out these frauds."

The problem has increased as the criminal element working in these new call centres grow, becoming more and more familiar with the UK population’s lifestyles, requirements and practices.

A number of UK commercial firms and charities including Outsourcing for Social Good, Impakt, Digital Jobs Africa, Cloud Factory and Accenture work at setting up centres overseas and train and recruit staff. There is no evidence to suggest any of these organisations has been involved in fraudulent activity.


In short foreign call centres:

  1. Allow workers to learn about our way of life

  2. Learn about how UK customers communicate with their banks, insurance providers, phone suppliers, etc operate, do they security checks, get you to part with personal information

  3. Enable access to masses amount of personal information

  4. Gain experience in communicating with people in the UK about personal business matters

  5. Don’t follow the strict data protection guidelines that most UK based premises do

This provides the knowledge and opportunity to carry out frauds and scams. Most importantly this is with the added comfort of knowing that UK law enforcement is unlikely to catch them. 

"The best way to protect yourself from scams and frauds is to be aware of them and know the precautions that you should take to avoid being caught out!"


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