Around midnight Tuesday, 200 police officers raided nine call centres in Mumbai and Thane and arrested 70 people. They have been charged with fraud, wrongful impersonation, breaching India’s Internet safety law and extortion. More than 600 others are being investigated and questioned. Those who were arrested were mainly young people who were tech savvy and spoke English well. According to police, they were trained to speak English with an American accent.
It is alleged the accused ran scams targeting American taxpayers. Recorded messages were sent to Americans who were told they either defrauded the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or more taxes were owing. Recipients of these calls were given a telephone number to call.
Those who did call back were told they were owed money and if they hung up or did not send this money in immediately they would be arrested in about 30 minutes. Those who fell for the scam would give their financial information to the scammers who would then take money out of their bank accounts. People were told to send the money to an American bank account. Sometimes the victims would be told to purchase gift cards and give the ID numbers to the fake IRS callers who would then use these cards to make purchases.
It is believed this particular scam had been going on for about a year. The scammers took in about $150,000 a day or $55 million during the year.
Param Bir Singh, the local police commissioner, said police had a mole working undercover in the operation. While workers were arrested, the owners of these call centres have escaped. Singh expects many of the 600 plus people being questioned will also face charges. Police in India believe the scammers had accomplices in the United States and they will be in touch with American authorities.
CNN reports these IRS scams in the United States have duped Americans out of $15 million between 2013 and 2015. About 9,000 complaints have been made to authorities about people being scammed out of money by those posing as IRS employees.
The IRS warns Americans its employees never demand immediate payment; nor do they demand taxpayers’ banking information over the phone. And the IRS never tells people to go to stores such as Walmart and Target to purchase gift cards to pay off their debt.
According to Indian police, the raid netted the most arrests in recent memory.