Is it legal for companies to record your call even if you don’t want them to? We have grown so used to the words, “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance,” that we tend to give it little thought. We may want to rethink who is recording our conversations and why.
In his recent book, “Stealing Your life”, Frank W. Abagnale, a leading authority on identity theft, who works with agencies like the FBI and major corporations, warns of the possibility of what may really be happening when you speak to customer service representatives who are outsourced to a foreign country, or a representative in the states with an outsourced quality assurance company recording the call.
“Today companies in the business of quality assurance contract with businesses to eavesdrop on customer calls made in this country,” Abagnale states. These companies may be honest, or they may be infiltrated by less scrupulous opportunist collecting your private information. They can then turn and sell your information to identity thieves. While this same scenario can also happen in the United States, “American privacy laws don’t have jurisdiction abroad…American authorities can’t touch him,” according to Abagnale.
Identity theft is growing at such a rapid pace that the numbers and scenarios can make your head spin. In 2001, according to Abagnale, there were about 750,000 incidences of identity theft. In 2004 that number jumped to 10 million. “According to Javelin Strategies, a prominent research firm that often reports on identity theft, incidences of the crime increased by 11% from 2008 to 2009,” as reported by Identity Theft Labs.
One example of outsourced identity theft happened at a Chase call center. “A former Chase call center rep tells the story about this one thief who was able to rip off one customer for over $40,000, thanks to his constant outwitting out the internationally out-sourced security department,” according to The Consumerist.
United States Federal law (18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d)) “allows recording of phone calls and other electronic communications with the consent of at least one party to the call,” according to callcorder.com. This means that you may not have the right to deny the recorded eavesdropping.
State law usually trumps Federal law, but few states have a “two-party consent” law. Forty states require only “one-party consent”. Furthermore, “Federal law may apply when the conversation is between parties who are in different states,” according to callcorder.com. This means if a caller in one of the “one-party consent” states, calls someone in a “two-party consent” state, and records the call without consent, which law will prevail-state or federal?
Consent does not mean a verbal agreement to consent either. California courts have determined that there is “implied consent”. This means if you keep talking after you have been advised of the recording, you have implied your consent to it.
What can we do to protect ourselves from possible identity theft by outsourced Quality Assurance companies?
There is little we can do when it is a company that represents banks such as Chase for instance. Many financial institutions use outsourced customer service companies–especially to handle their loan modification overload or collections on past due accounts. These companies may already have all of our private information.
We can tell the company we do not consent to the recording and, who knows, they may not record it. The other thing we can do is guard what kind of information we offer. For instance, if you call a computer company and need technical assistance, you will not have a reason to give out your social security number or birth date for instance. The other thing we can do is insisting on knowing who is recording our calls and why they need the information in the first place. Furthermore, define quality assurance. Has customer service quality really improved since all of this quality assurance controls have been in place?
Abagnale encourages everyone to “tell their congressperson and the companies that you patronize by using the most important powers you have at your disposal: your vote and your wallet.” Choose local financial institutions such as credit unions to do your banking and ask if they outsource. Never offer personal information to unknown sources. We need to start demanding protections against this great crime wave before it is too late.
Stealing Your Life by Frank W. Abagnale, Broadway Books New York 2007
United States Telephone Recording Laws
Legal Aspects of Recording Telephone Conversations: A Practical Guide
How Outsourced Call Centers Are Costing Millions In Identity Theft
By Ben Popken on October 27, 2008 5:00 PM
Identity Theft Statistics 2010
February 18, 2010 http://www.identitytheftlabs.com/identity-theft/identity-theft-statistics-2010/