Indian Name-Heart Plot Fooled People Into Paying Over $14 Million
NEW DELHI – New Delhi police say they arrested over 50 people for a call center scam that led victims to believe that their assets were frozen as part of an elaborate drug investigation and then money would transfer to avoid going to jail.
According to the authorities, scammers in the conspiracy called people and told them that their assets and bank accounts had been seized after officers from several U.S. law enforcement agencies found their bank account details at drug cartel crime scenes in Mexico and Colombia.
Over 4,500 Americans fell for it, New Delhi police said Wednesday, and officials estimate that more than $ 14 million was transferred in two years.
Investigators said the victims had a choice: either go to court or choose an “alternative dispute resolution” that would allow them to avoid facing the law.
“They were asked to buy bitcoins or Google gift cards, which are worth all the money in their accounts,” said Anyesh Roy, a New Delhi police officer. The money was then transferred to a “secure government wallet,” which the victims were told actually belonged to the scammers.
Call centers are part of India’s expanding outsourcing industry, which has annual sales of around $ 28 billion and employs around 1.2 million people. At the same time, the country has become a hot spot for online fraud, where perpetrators are rarely punished.
Cases have become so common in recent years that the Indian authorities have deployed special units to deal with the problem.
In August, police raided a call center in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and arrested over two dozen people suspected of defrauding over 30,000 Americans by placing malware on their computers and then offering to fix them for a price.
The call center workers have sent tons of links to pornographic websites to people in the United States, police said. When the links were clicked, the users’ computer systems were malfunctioning. The scammers would then order users to buy iTunes gift cards or to charge them up to $ 700 for debugging the computers, police said.
Authorities have raided India and arrested hundreds of people, from boiler rooms in New Delhi, a hub of the global call center industry, to the suburbs of Mumbai where scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service officials Have requested payments to cover taxes.
When police arrived at the call center in West Delhi on Wednesday, they quickly discovered that it was one of the largest operations they had seen in the past few months.
The scammers were trained to speak with American accents and asked to read from a verified script, police said. An official investigating the case said those involved were able to quickly give people in to their demands and would be rewarded with additional money.
Investigators said the call center manager, a Dubai-based Indian, was also involved in a similar previous case but fled the United Arab Emirates before he could be arrested. They said he paid the call center staff $ 400 to $ 500 a month and many of his employees were teenagers.
Rakshit Tandon, a cybersecurity expert, said Indian scammers hardly worked in isolation and that investigators usually found a sleeping partner, either in the country where the victims live or in places where data is lost from other parts of the world can .
As India slips into an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Tandon said it was likely that more call center crimes would be reported in the coming months, with huge spikes in unemployment and few jobs for educated young people .
“We have trained and cheap labor available,” he said. “Employees know they are cheating, but they do it anyway for extra money.”