Mumbai

Telecallers dupe American taxpayers, 70 held

Call centre employees, who were arrested for cheating, in Mumbai on Wednesday. — Photo: Rajendra G.  

The Thane police have busted a racket in which telecallers were calling up American citizens posing as agents of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and duping them into paying ‘fines’ for ‘tax irregularities’. The police have arrested 70 accused in the case, while 700 are still under the scanner.

According to police officials, acting on a tip-off, a team of 40 officers and 120 constables conducted raids on three buildings on Mira Road, from which the racket was allegedly being run.

“Telephonic conversations via Voice Over Internet Protocol [VOIP] facility were being made when we raided the three places and we also found recordings of calls made to U.S. citizens in these spaces, which were being run like call centres.”

“A total of 772 people were taken into custody for inquiries,” said Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.

Explaining the modus operandi of the accused, Mr. Singh said the accused obtained contact details of U.S. citizens in bulk from gangs that illegally sell such information. “The callers would call the targets and claim to be from the IRS. They would then tell the targets that some irregularities had been detected in their tax payments, that they had become defaulters, that they would be booked and would face imprisonment for at least three months. Once a target believed them, the callers would start talking about payment of fines. After an amount agreeable to both parties was reached, the targets would be asked to pay via international gift cards or iTunes,” Mr. Singh said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Parag Manere added, “Eight out of ten times, the targets would not believe the callers and hang up. But even if only a handful of people paid the ‘fines’ every day, the accused were still making thousands of dollars from each target.”

According to inquiries so far, the racket has been active for around a year, and the accused are believed to have cheated thousands of U.S. citizens to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees. The police are still trying to get an estimate of the amount of money that the accused have made till date.

Others being questioned

After preliminary inquiries, the police identified 70 of the detained suspects who were heading the racket and placed them under arrest, while the rest are still being questioned. The accused have been booked under the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act and the Indian Telegraph Act, and the police have seized hard drives and computers.