Assuming this is all true, it's not the first time an outsourced worker in India has resorted to blackmail. It makes you wonder, however, why we continue to outsource our work to such other regions of the world, as well as about the naivete of the woman involved.
In this case, Tara Fitzgerald, 48 and a mother of a 14-year-old of Sacramento, CA apparently was having trouble finding the nude pictures she'd taken for her boyfriend on her PC. Not too familiar with PCs (and obviously not wanting to ask her daughter for help), she turned to Dell Tech Support for help.
As we all know, a lot of technical support (and not just by Dell) has been outsourced. In this case, Fitzgerald was connected to Riyaz Shaikh, an employee of Dell's call service center in India. That's when it all began.
After explaining the issue (in too much detail, it would appear), Fitzgerald gave Shaikh remote control of her PC. For him, it was easy to find the images. She said, "I trusted him. I trusted him because he was a Dell technician. I watched him take the pictures out of my e-mail. I watched him." Thereafter followed a sequence of events that showed her obvious naivete.
Fitzgerald later received an anonymous (ahem) tip about a site called "bitchtara" that had 16 nude and semi-nude photos of her, along with sexual activity the site claimed she enjoyed.
Managing to re-connect with Shaikh, Fitzgerald asked how the pictures came to be on that site. His answer: perhaps her boyfriend posted them. Ah, but Shaikh could help her get the site removed, but only from home, not during official work hours. He'd need a laptop to do that, he told her.
Fitzgerald bought him the laptop, shipped it on Jan. 20, 2009 (she has a UPS receipt as proof). She was starting to get the picture, though. "My conscience is talking to me, saying 'Tara, don't send this. Are you crazy?' I sent it anyway."
As if that wasn't enough, Shaikh came on to Fitzgerald, and she fell for that as well. Later, though, the 24-year-old Shaikh told her that he had fallen in love with a 22-year-old woman in Tennessee (who had also called Dell Tech Support). Further, Fitzgerald later discovered two purchases on Feb. 17th, 2009, totalling $802 charged to her Dell Preferred credit card, shipped to a woman in (where else?) Waynesboro, TN.
When confronted with the charges, here's what he said to her, saved in a message log: (Riyaz...Dell Certified L2 (level 2) Technician) "ur my True friend Tara... I am sorry accidently I charged ur Dell Account but I will pay. I don't want to loose my job. It was a mistake which happened with me and I am screwed."
Of course, even as late as earlier this week, Fitzgerald still had not received the money, and also is continuing to receive charges for late fees on the account.
Why is this coming to light now? Fitzgerald tried to resolve this with Dell, but after over a year, decided that the media was the best course of action. Based on all the publicity, Dell has apparently decided to accelerate their investigation. Dell spokeswoman Elizabeth Shine said:
"We investigated the issue, which involved a technical representative at one of Dell's vendors. We contacted the vendor about the allegation and can confirm that the representative no longer handles Dell calls. We've been in contact with Ms. Fitzgerald regarding this issue and continue to investigate her claims to best assist in a resolution."
Assuming this can all be ironed out, Fitzgerald has yet another worry. Shaikh still has her pictures.
Other countries have different laws than the U.S., and this shows the dangers of outsourcing. Naturally, outsourcing will not end until wages and overhead make outsourcing less profitable for companies. In some cases, not even poor performance is enough to shut down the outsourcing door. After all, you can throw more people at the problem even if sub-standard performance exists, right?