Police in India have broken a ring of scammers that tricked Americans into paying them millions of dollars.
The massive scam saw Indian criminals posing as tax inspectors asking for payment of unpaid taxes, reports the Associated Press. As of Thursday seventy people have been arrested, according to a police officer in Mumbai.
American victims scammed out of millions of dollars
Hundreds more people have been questioned in relation with the case. Indian police say that the scam ran for more than a year before being discovered.
The gang used fake call centers to leave voice mail messages to individuals in the United States. These messages told victims to call back in order to pay taxes that they owed.
If anyone did call back, the scammers would offer to “settle” the back taxes for sums that reached several thousands of dollars.
“They would make threatening calls to honest taxpayers in the U.S., ask them to deposit money through pre-paid cards,” said Param Bir Singh, the police chief of Thane, a Mumbai suburb, in an interview with Indian news network NDTV.
Hundreds of people questioned by police in India
Mumbai police officer Parag Marere said that the scammers were making over $150,000 per day. If this is true the gang would have made nearly $55 million in one year.
“We are questioning those who were involved in the fraud, including those posing as tax investigators,” Marere said, according to the AP.
More than 600 people have currently been questioned. Many of them will likely face charges for their involvement in running the scam operation.
Among them are the alleged leaders of the ring, as well as those who carried out other tasks for the scam operation. The team ran its operations from a Mumbai office building, where it covered several stories.
International scammers share profits
Some of the charges already filed against the accused include impersonation, extortion and violations of information technology laws. According to Indian media sources, the scammers were assisted by collaborators based in the United States.
Investigations have uncovered that at least one U.S. company passed on personal information of potential victims to the scammers. Officials say that 70% of the profits remained in India, with the remaining 30% shared among collaborators outside the country.
Police raids have been taking place in India this week, with hundreds of hard disks recovered alongside high-end servers and other pieces of equipment. The fake call centers were run from sophisticated offices, and the scale of the crime is almost unbelievable.
There has been no word on the identity of the victims thus far. However senior citizens are often targeted by fraudsters.
The problem has grown to the extent that some banks have special software designed to combat the problem. If suspicious patterns of activity are detected in seniors’ account, the bank will act accordingly.
However it is unlikely that victims will get their money bank. While banks are getting better at spotting thefts that have already been committed, it’s up to you to protect yourself from fraudsters.
Older people should take extra care
Seniors are good targets because they tend to have more cash in their accounts. Some may also be unfamiliar with the latest banking technology and more willing to believe an authoritative voice at the end of the phone.
Fraudsters have recently been using Medicare to swindle seniors. Scammers will call people up pretending to be a Medicare representative, and tell you that you need to update your Medicare card. They will ask you for personal information including your Social Security number, which gives them complete access to your financial life.
If the right information is handed over, they can even access your bank and brokerage funds. Others might bill Medicare for fake services.
Some shameless scammers have even been known to read the obituary column and attend a funeral services. Once they’re here, they try to convince grieving family members that their dead relative owed them money. It’s heartless but it can work when people are grieving.
Other scams include bogus phone calls from supposed relatives asking for cash in an emergency. Imagine that your grandson calls you ask asking for bail or rent money, you might be quite likely to help them out of a bind. However instead of assisting your family, you could be helping a conman get rich.
As the victims of this scam in India have now realized, it is essential to verify any the identity of anyone that calls you. Never hand out personal information over the phone unless you are completely sure that you are speaking to the right person.