This Article is From Oct 06, 2016

Foreign Media On Indian Call Centres Scamming Americans

Foreign Media On Indian Call Centres Scamming Americans

The call centers were making more than $150,000 a day scamming Americans

New Delhi: Computer savvy criminals posing as Internal Revenue Service officers at call centers in India may have bilked unsuspecting Americans out of millions, police in India said Thursday.

Police in Mumbai conducted a dramatic midnight raid at a call center in the country's commercial capital of Mumbai Tuesday, and detained 770 employees for questioning, of which 70 were later charged with fraud, wrongful impersonation and violating the country's internet safety law.

The call centers were making more than $150,000 a day through these scams that took place for a little over a year, police said.

The callers told their American victims they were conducting a "tax revision" or that they had defaulted on payments to the IRS and would then obtain their personal finance information and withdraw money from their bank accounts, according to Param Bir Singh, a senior police officer in Mumbai who led the raid.

It was one of the largest such raids in recent memory, he added.

"These are the people who bring a bad name to India's IT industry and it is very important to weed them out," Singh said.

More than 200 police officers descended on a tall, glass-fronted office building where the nine call centers were operating during Tuesday's midnight raid after being tipped off by neighbors.

"It looked like a regular office building, and employed a lot of young people who spoke English and had a good knowledge of computers," Singh said. "It was a very sophisticated operation they were running."

Meanwhile, in another call center in the suburb of New Delhi, police say workers allegedly duped thousands of American citizens by offering to remove a virus from their computers. On Sunday, police in Noida arrested six people for running a call center that sold insurance to Indians by day, but by night, also allegedly duped American consumers with fake offers of tech support to correct malware and viruses.

This is not the first time fraudulent call centers targeting American citizens have been raided in India.

As more American businesses outsourced their back-end operations to India in the past two decades, it generated a thriving IT industry here employing millions of English-speaking, software professionals, and birthing a sub-culture of sorts including movies and novels. But some have also taken advantage of the trend and found ways to access data of American customers and defraud them.

Call center crimes targeting Indian customers have also become a big "nuisance" for Indians, says Raj Kumar Mishra, deputy superintendent of police in Noida's special task force in Noida, outside New Delhi. In the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, for example, such crimes have increased 4,300 percent in the last five years.

Most of the complaints are about callers that try to access the pin number of the ATM card of customers and online bank frauds, he said. Nearly 300 people involved in such crimes were arrested in the state last year.

"There are leakages from unscrupulous bank staff who are selling the customer data illegally. That is a hole we have to plug," Mishra said.

The state is now setting up two police stations that will handle cases of call center and online fraud exclusively.

Earlier this year, another operation was busted here that ran illegal Internet-calling exchanges in New York and Noida and offered cheap rates for callers, Mishra said.

A deposition by the Bureau of Consumer Protection told the Senate Judiciary Committee in July this year that Indian call centers, much like similar fraud from Jamaica, are emerging as a big source of concern. Such calls are likely to target older American citizens and often offer technical support to resolve non-existent computer problems.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post

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