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Indian data theft 'exposed'

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A man in India offered to sell the front man of a Channel 4 sting operation the credit card details of 200,000 people, the programme Dispatches will reveal tonight.

The programme makers were inspired by a sting operation mounted on an Indian call centre last year by The Sun newspaper, in which a man allegedly sold the bank details of 1,000 British people to a journalist.

The Sun story helped stoke a backlash against outsourcing to India. The Sun was subsequently accused of duping its quarry and fabricating the story about fraud in India.

Dispatches will show that fraud and theft do indeed occur in India. It will demonstrate how doing business with India, like any other country, necessitates the exchange of information that can subsequently get into the wrong hands.

The Channel 4 programme also claims to have found a man willing to sell the mobile phone details of 8,000 British people, and another willing to sell bank account details.

There have been well publicised incidents of fraud involving Indians who had access to British bank accounts. But fraud is a bigger problem in UK institutions, a fact largely overlooked by the media. It is also more likely to occur in any other developed market we choose to do business with.

We have noted this before, but to recap briefly, take the example of the Indian man who was arrested in June for selling information from an HSBC call centre that was used to defraud £233,000 from customer accounts. In the same month, however, and Edinburgh Donald McKenzie was prosecuted for defrauding £21m from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Incidents of reported fraud in the UK have tripled in since 2003, according to BDO Stoy Hayward. The British government is conducting a review of unreported fraud the UK, which is it describes as "chronic".

Accountants Ernst & Young found in a survey of Western corporate managers that almost two thirds expected to encounter more fraud in emerging markets than at home. Yet 75 per cent of fraud occurred in developed markets, the firm said. Forrester Research found in 2005 that the UK and US suffered more computer security breaches than India.

Such interest in Indian fraud in the face of such evidence warrants a reminder of the Conservative party's recent paper on India. It described euphemistically the "aversion" British people had to doing business with India. The British need to do business with India, it said, so they better learn to see the Indians as they are. ®

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