Britain's banking industry – or at least those firms that have outsourced administrative operations to India - face a nightmare scenario after an undercover reporter for the Sun newspaper was sold confidential details of British bank account holders stolen from Indian call centres.
The reporter allegedly paid £2,750 for the full account details – including secret passwords, addresses, phone numbers and credit card, passport and driving licence information.
The Sun said that their reporter was told that he could purchase details of 200,000 bank accounts a month from more than one call centre.
City of London Police are now investigating the allegations, but said they were not yet aware of "the breadth of what we are going to be investigating".
"The scandal The Sun has uncovered in India has frightening repercussions for anyone who lends money — not to mention anyone who has a bank account or owns a credit card," the Sun says in its Leader column today.
"The ease with which our reporter was able to buy the confidential financial details of 1,000 people at £3 a time is staggering."
The Sun's 'sting' comes a few months after a gang operating in a call centre near Bombay stole about £200,000 from the accounts of New York-based Citibank customers.
Needless to say, the repercussions for the banking industry could also be significant. Already one UK bank, NatWest, has run a TV advertising campaign that makes a public a play of the fact that it doesn't believe in 'offshoring'.
But think on these figures from call centre consultants, ContactBable. A bank that replaced 1,000 UK call centre agents with the same number in India would save £9.26m a year in operating costs. But if the bank then lost an extra 0.343 per cent of their customers as a result, their revenues would be reduced by the same amount that they had saved.
What's more, customers who are put through to offshore call centres are four times more likely to change their service provider than those who were not.
And when the names of the banks involved in this latest fiasco are revealed, how many customers will walk rather than risk having their most valuable financial details being sold for less than £3 in a New Delhi café?