In a shocking revelation over the past year, operators from around nine call centers at Mira Road, about 40 km from Mumbai have been duping many American citizens. In this regard, the Thane police conducted raids on all the nine call centers on late Tuesday night. Around 700 persons were booked and 70 arrested.
According to the investigating team, "the victims in the US were threatened with a tax investigation by Mira Road call center executives impersonating as American Internal Revenue Services (IRS) officials. Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said to escape tax investigation, many Americans agreed to pay between US $500and $60,000. An audio recording of an employee at one of these call centers, now in the possession of the Thane Police, had him tell his prospective victim: There is a lawsuit filed in your name regarding tax evasion or tax fraud.”
An officer said "the call center employees were trained to speak with an American accent. The nine alleged bogus call centers were located at three different locations, seven in a business park off Western Express Highway, one in a bungalow in Mira Road and one in a small shop in a residential building of the suburb."
“The employees would begin the conversation telling the listener the badge number and name of the IRS official. They would threaten the Americans saying if they didn’t pay up, then the police would raid their home in the next half hour. Investigations showed the calls were made through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The accused had spoofed the toll number of IRS. So when the victim received a call, Internal Revenue Services would flash on their phone,” Singh said.
An officer said "Victims would be coaxed to purchase a gift card of a specific brand and forced to transfer the money through these gift cards. These gift cards would have a 16-digit serial number that the employees would coerce the American to share over the phone. The employees would threaten the victims that if they disconnected the line their house would be raided. Once the employee has the serial number, a transaction is made and the line is disconnected."
Police who identified eight main accused in the operation were Haidar Ali (24), Hamza Bolesar (34), Kabir Vardhan (26), Arjun Vasudev (24), Abdul Zariwala (22), Johnson Dontosa (24), Govind Thakur (28) and Ankit Gupta (19).
All these eight, and other 62 accused were arrested on charges of cheating under the Indian Penal Code. The were also charged with relevant sections of the Indian Telegraph Act and the IT Act.
“In our raid, we found 772 persons, 70 of whom have been arrested, 630 more are listed accused but not arrested yet and 72 others who have been let off for not having any direct benefit from the con,” Singh said.
Police said that "we suspect that one of the owners of the call centers worked in the US and stole information that was misused. A day’s turnover from all these call centers was around Rs 1.5 crore."
“Our initial investigation shows they had so many contact details of American nationals that only two of a hundred people would be deceived,” an officer claimed.
The police said they "seized 851 hard disks, internet servers, DVRs, laptops, all worth more than Rs 1 crore."
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BY M. DIVYA SRI