Authorities in the Indian city of Mumbai say that a large phone fraud ring was operating in the city for more than a year, running the IRS tax scam and stealing as much as $150,000 per day from victims, mainly in the United States.
Police in Mumbai this week conducted raids on nine call centers in the city, arresting about 70 people and removing hundreds of hard drives for inspection. Hundreds of other people are still under investigation and there likely will be more arrests, officials said. The details of the operation in Mumbai reveal a sophisticated, efficient organization that had training programs, scripts, and knew how to extract cash from people thousands of miles away.
The scheme that this group allegedly was running was a variant of the tax phone fraud scam in which callers threaten victims with arrest because of supposedly unpaid back taxes. The caller will tell the victim that she has failed to pay taxes for several years and has to pay a fine right away. The fake fine, which is usually several thousand dollars, typically has to be paid by buying a prepaid card or sometimes a wire transfer. Victims are told that if they don’t pay the fine, the police will be coming to arrest them.
The scam has been going on for many years, but police in India say this particular ring was particularly effective. The scammers would train new recruits to speak with American accents and give them detailed scripts for their calls. Paramvir Singh, Thane police commissioner, told The Guardian that authorities were alerted to the operation by someone inside.
“We had a mole go in to the call centres to verify. The best part is that they were actually recording all their calls. We have recovered 851 hard disks on which the calls were recorded, so we’re going through those now,” Singh said.
Earlier this year, the IRS said it has seen a 400 percent increase in these tax phone scams, and in May the Treasury Department arrested five people in connection with an IRS phone fraud scam.