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Ringing Through to Identity Theft?

February 27, 2012

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Calling a customer service center based outside the United States can cause more than frustration with languages and accents. It can lead to fraud and identity theft, according to a recent report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Legislative director Shane Larson says they've found thousands of instances of theft directly related to employees in overseas call centers.

"Americans need to be aware that when you're giving all this information to someone located at an overseas call center, your data is at risk."

Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes is co-sponsoring a bill (U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act) that would address some of the concerns. Larson says it would give consumers basic rights.

"A foreign, overseas call center must notify a U.S. consumer where they are located, so that you, as a consumer, know that that is located outside of the United States."

In addition, customers could ask to be transferred to a U.S.-based center, and companies that off-shore their call centers would be put on a list available to the public. The report also looked at the economic damage done to communities when companies move call centers overseas, and the legislation would limit federal aid to companies that choose to do that.

The report recommends that the U.S. strongly encourage countries to pass data privacy laws. Larson says India did pass such a law recently, but then exempted call centers from complying.

Companies that use off-shore centers save on labor costs.

The bill is H.R. 3596. It has 61 co-sponsors.

The CWA report, "Why Shipping Call Centers Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home," is at bit.ly/zwflu4.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD