Getting a call from Citibank cards is like getting called to your school principal's office. Most of the time, not a pleasant experience.
Well, in the backdrop of the current Sun expose on Indian BPO employees selling credit card information, I have my own little experience to recount.
Citibank: Ma'am I'm calling from Chennai to inform you your card has been 'compromised'.
By whom, what, where - she wouldn't say. But Visa has put my card - which has not been used for many months now - on a watchlist. And so it is being replaced.
Identity theft and card fraud has become a massive global 'business'. As a report by Tom Zeller in the New York Times dt Jun 21, 05 reveals:
"Want live in premium hotels? Want own beautiful girls? It's possible with dumps from Zo0mer." A "dump," in the blunt vernacular of a relentlessly flourishing online black market, is a credit card number. And what Zo0mer is peddling is stolen account information - name, billing address, phone - for Gold Visa cards and MasterCards at $100 apiece.
It is not clear whether any data stolen from CardSystems Solutions, the payment processor reported on Friday to have exposed 40 million credit card accounts to possible theft, has entered this black market. But law enforcement officials and security experts say it is a safe bet that the data will eventually be peddled at sites like iaaca.com - its very name a swaggering shorthand for International Association for the Advancement of Criminal Activity.
... The Federal Trade Commission estimates that roughly 10 million Americans have their personal information pilfered and misused in some way or another every year, costing consumers $5 billion and businesses $48 billion annually...
A patient criminal will wait until the day a victim receives a billing statement. "That way you have a full 30 days" before the victim is likely to look over his account again, explained one frank tutorial collected by the F.B.I.
What's more, it's estimated that only about 5 percent of cybercriminals are ever caught. And this is one area where IT pros from Russia and eastern Europe are far bigger dadas than Indians, working in BPOs or otherwise.
I am - in no way - condoning apna BPO employee's actions. But supply exists because there is demand.
In this case, it's not like the Sun reporter stepped out of Indira Gandhi airport and was offered stolen credit card numbers. He went looking for people to sell it to him. And yes, there he succeeded.
I am sure British call centre workers may also have obliged the reporter - had he cared to try. Although not for a paltry 4 pounds a piece!
As Steven Spielberg's Minority Report so imaginatively depicted it, there will always be a black market for identities. Today it's credit card numbers, but if and when we go biometric - it could be fingerprints and retinas...