Police in India Raid Call Center Accused of Scamming U.S. Citizens

Indian news media report that hundreds of call center employees were detained and dozens arrested.

Published Oct. 7, 2016

 (Reuters screen capture)
Image courtesy of Reuters screen capture

Hundreds of call center workers in India have been detained by police there over accusations that they were part of an operation to scam U.S. citizens. About 70 have been arrested so far in the ongoing investigation.

Indian news media reports indicate the raids involved 200 police officers and took place during the week of 2 October 2016 and the workers were employed in several call centers in Thane, which is just north of Mumbai. The workers are accused of taking part of a scam where they impersonated Internal Revenue Service agents and intimidated people in the United States into allowing them to steal money:

They would call up the US citizens and demand their financial and bank details, failing which they would allegedly threaten them with dire consequences, including legal action.

According to the Associated Press, workers at the call center would call Americans and leave them voice messages telling them they owed back taxes. Victims who returned the calls would pay out thousands of dollars to "settle" their cases. Mumbai police officer Parag Marere told the AP the scam brought in $150,000 a day," including funds from victims who improbably purchased gift cards to pay their delinquent taxes:

Some victims were also told to buy gift vouchers from various companies, and hand over the voucher ID numbers which the impostors then used to make purchases, Marere said.

Police said they are likely to file charges against many of the 600 or more people still being questioned on suspicion of running the fake call centers, housed on several stories of a Mumbai office building.

In August 2016, the IRS issued a warning against a surge of summer tax scams in which taxpayers were left urgent phone messages telling them to call and settle their "tax bill." The scammers would demand that victims pay using iTunes or other gift cards. The IRS put out a reminder warning Americans that the agency would never do any of the following:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Police arrested Nasreen Bano Iqbal Bale Sahib and sons, Nadeem Iqbal Balasaheb and Shain Iqbal Balasaheb, who own the company MAC Outsourcing Services Private Limited, the Wall Street Journal reported. So far, 70 people have been charged.

Reuters reports on the story here:

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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