Is Your Identity Safe When Calling Customer Service

18 October, 2013

There’s a new report that’s raising serious concerns about the risks we may all face when calling customer service centers.  The issue is whether the representative you’re speaking to is located in an off-shore call center.   Unlike the United States, most countries don’t have legal safeguards against fraud and identitytheft.   I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my credit card information being stolen by someone in another country.

Getting the most attention are India and the Philippines, two countries that have the largest number of call centers used by U.S. corporations.  India did pass data privacy laws last year but the Indian government specifically exempted outsourcing companies from having to comply with the law.  The Philippines has no data protection laws and has seen more growth in their outsourcing business as more and more Indian call center work is being “sub-outsourced” to them.   Workers in the Philippines, apparently, are cheaper than those in India.  And, most foreign companies do not do background checks on those they hire.

What can you do?  

               *  When you are on the phone and about to use your credit or debit card, ask where the customer service representative is located.  If he/she is honest and acknowledges being outside the U.S., maybe there is another way to pay for your product.  Inform the rep of your concerns.  “Nothing personal, but I’m concerned about identity theft.”

                *  Support The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, a recently-introduced bill in Congress (Rep. Tim Bishop, D-NY) that has bipartisan support.   Contact your Senator and Congressperson.  This legislation would make American outsourcers ineligible for guaranteed federal loans and grants for five years.   Non-U.S. customer reps would have to disclose their location when asked by American callers and would have to transfer the call to an American call center if the customer requests it.   

Given the lack of safeguards for American consumers, you could be financially devastated if your information is stolen.  The United States has no authority to pursue restitution in other countries.  The report was written by researchers for the Communication Workers of America, a union that represents more than 150,000 call center workers in the United States.  The union says more than 700,000 American call center jobs have been outsourced by U.S. companies in the last several years.    Stay safe out there!  Until next time, here’s to good planning!

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