London: Bank and credit card details of thousands of British customers held in call centres in India are allegedly being sold for small amounts of money, according to a sting operation conducted by a newspaper.

The Sun on Tuesday published details of the sting operation in which one Deepak Chuphal offered to pass on bank details, addresses and other personal data of British customers of companies who send such data to call centres in India.

The report once again raised questions about data protection laws in India and demands that British companies bring back call centres to Britain.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) launched an investigation based on The Sun's revelations that brokers in Gurgaon and Mumbai were offering such sensitive personal data for sale.

The data can be misused to access funds from the accounts of unsuspecting British customers.

Calling the findings "an absolute bombshell", the UK's Fraud Prevention Service CIFAS communications manager Richard Hurley said: "I am astounded. The information being traded is everything a criminal needs to clear out an account or steal an identity. That this is happening on an industrial scale is enough to make anyone shudder. This is a wake-up call. Security processes and staff vetting need to be reviewed."’

The Sun's team bought the details of 1,000 British customers from the dealer for 250 pounds.

The report said: "We were given bank account details, personal data and credit card numbers with the three-digit CVV security code needed for use on the phone or web. There were even online account passwords". The report added: We tracked down the dealer through a website where Indian traders with access to call centre data seek black market buyers.

The Sun team posed as villains setting up a dodgy insurance company in Nepal to target Britain.

Deepak Chuphal, a former call centre worker, sent the team a "sample", a spreadsheet containing details of 21 Barclays and Lloyds TSB customers.

He later met the team at a cafe in Gurgaon, and brought up pages of British customer details on his laptop.

He is seen in The Sun video saying that he already had British clients, including one who weekly buys the data on 100,000 people.

Chuphal says: "It's taken from broadband when they do a direct debit. For the name, number, address, bank name, sort code, account number - that's 25 pence. It's easy, it's big business."

The report says that Chuphal later emailed the team with the personal details of hundreds of customers of banks and internet service providers, including BT, Virgin Media, NTL and Tiscali.

At a later meeting at Delhi's Hyatt hotel, Chuphal said he had more than 25 insiders at nine call centres.

Directors or team leaders allegedly make about 400 pounds a month by stealing data.

Chuphal claimed that every week he could sell details of 5,000 British credit card holders, 25,000 bank accounts and the personal profiles of 50,000 people.

The report said that The Sun team was offered similar services by a Mumbai broker who advertises on the same website as Chupal.

(Agencies)