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Indian Call Center Suckers US Nationals With IRS Fraud

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Thousands of Americans have been suckered by a call-fraud scam run through India-based call centers. What they do is:

  • Call people in America saying they’re from the IRS (the tax department) and that they have an arrest warrant for overdue taxes
  • The amounts are of the order of $1,000 to $10,000 or so
  • They say that you will be arrested in minutes if you do not act now.
  • Some people get scared and decide to pay
  • They are directed to go buy gift cards from a local store, or an iTunes gift card or such, and to repeat the number over the phone
  • And when they do, these people take out the money or sell the cards and poof.
  • The call centers were based in India – Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

This is a huge huge scam that’s been going on for years. Look at all the youtube videos of just those by people in America who figured out this was a scam and recorded all such calls. It’s just amazing how cocky the people behind these scams are.

And there’s some Retribution

Apparently, some of these scammers have been caught. They’ve hired a bunch of college kids and trained them up in a faux accent. These kids are not innocent, btw, because after you do it once you know you’re scamming people, and if you don’t leave or report the crime, you deserve to go to jail.
One ringleader of such a scam – Sahil Patel – was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in the US a year back.
A recent Indian police operation in Mumbai has unearthed another such scam – by “Shaggy” – Sagar Thakkar, a 26 year old Ahmedabad based scammer. NDTV reports that an insider has revealed how the scam works, where they paid employees in cash, and here’s a video shows that this center scammed people out of $36 million:

And it’s not just Americans Getting Scammed, It’s Indians Too!

Scam artists are universal. They hit Indians too, and a lot.

  • Divya book company had a big fraud going on where they send random books by “VPP” (receiver pays) to newly registered companies.
  • People have fake phone calls asking you to give them your pin number and ATM card details and whoosh, that’s gone.
  • You get fake phone calls from people pretending to be IRDA officials asking you to buy an insurance policy
  • People send desperate SMS’s telling you to buy shady stocks
  • You get a mail from Nigeria saying that you won a million dollars but if you pay Rs. 5,000 right now to release some documents…

The problem? India never punishes the scammers. Put these people in prison for 10 years and these scams will reduce. The only reason the US IRS scams continue or that Nigerian scams do, is that the host countries don’t prosecute these people. We should, but we don’t.
How do you avoid such scams? Don’t trust anyone. Get second opinions, and be ready to ask tough questions. No giving any info on phone calls. Ask for an employee id and a photo identification of anyone who calls – I even do this of people who call from a phone company nowadays. Make sure you get stuff in written – otherwise its worthless. Don’t give credit card numbers, PINs or any codes on the phone. And finally, if you’ve been scammed, don’t let it go – it’s not embarassing to say you were scammed, and it will help prevent further scams if you act.

  • lohit says:

    Banks should introduce two factor auth for credit/debit cards. Currently the user gets an SMS after the transaction is over. This is helpful, but better still would be to inform the user before the transaction. I.e whenever a transaction happens, the card owner should get a push notification on her smartphone asking for approval.

  • jas says:

    Hello Deepak,
    There is another scam which going on for getting donations for treating a disease suffering patient specially kids. Callers will try to play emotionally and will ask you to donate for cause. If you say I will donate directly they will plead and even threat you. Specially ngo registered by name of relief trust ,caring trust India etc.

  • Sanjeev B says:

    What about banks that ask you to verify your pin through touch tones? Isn’t that a security hazard?