The Mira Road call centre scam busted late on Tuesday is believed to have robbed US citizens of Rs 500 crore in the last one year. It has prompted US federal authorities to seek details.
“It could be the tip of the iceberg and the amount could multiply as our probe progresses,” said Thane police commissioner Param Bir Singh, adding that there is a possibility that people in the UK and Australia too could have been conned.
Singh is leading the investigation into one of the most daring tele frauds that has led to the arrest of 70 people so far. Showcause notices have been slapped on 630 other employees of the illegal call centre. The employees would pose as officers of the US’ Internal Revenue Service, threaten US citizens with arrest for tax default and persuade them to make online payments worth $500-3,000 to escape landing behind bars.
Sources said multiple US federal agencies have got in touch to get details of the scam, particularly of the gang members who were in the US and helped gather contact details of the targets.
This is how the whole scam was taking place :
From a call centre in Maharashtra to a resident in America, a recent phone conversation started like this: “There is a lawsuit filed in your name regarding tax evasion or tax fraud.”
Thousands of Americans received similar calls from nine call centres at Thane near Mumbai. They were threatened with a tax investigation by executives pretending to be American Internal Revenue Services or IRS officials.
To escape an investigation, many unsuspecting Americans agreed to pay anywhere between 500 and 60,000 dollars.
These call centres scammed nearly 6,500 Americans and estimates suggest collected over 36 million dollars.
On Tuesday night, as the workers started dialing America, some 200 policemen swooped in to cut the lines. Nearly 800 workers were questioned through the night and 70 of them were finally arrested – among them the eight kingpins who came up with the “business model”. The rest were let off with a warning.
“They would call people and say that if they didn’t pay then the cops would come and raid their house in half an hour,” said Thane police chief Param Bir Singh.
The employees, some either barely out of school or in college, would make calls from a database of numbers leaked from the US and blackmail them. Their parents say they were tricked into believing they were doing legitimate work.
“My son has been working for a week. They told us they have to make recovery calls for credit card and debit card companies,” said one parent.
Three illegal call centres were functioning 24×7 in three shifts from a seven-storied Delta building near Royal College in Mira Road.
The owners of the call centres evaded the cops, but among those arrested is Haider Ali Ayub Mansuri (24), a graduate who is a director in one of the call centres. A manhunt has been launched for the owners. In Tuesday’s late night raid on an illegal Mira Road call centre, a total of 852 hard disks, high-end servers, DVRs, laptops and equipment worth Rs 1 crore was seized. Of the seven floors in the building, the top one was used for training the employees in the elaborate con of robbing US citizens by posing as US taxmen, and the others -each with as many as 100 internet connections -to make the calls to the victims.
“The three call centres–Hari Om IT Park, Universal Outsourcing Services and Oswal House–were collectively pocketing around Rs 1 to 1.5 crore daily.
The caller would use the VoIP technology using a proxy server and make hundreds of calls: the strike rate was anywhere around 5%. But the amount they stole from the innocent people is mind-boggling. In one case, one of the victims shelled out $60,000 just to escape a so-called raid on his house by taxmen,” said Singh.
The police suspect there may be a couple of more business partners in the call centres who shared the profits. Documents seized from the building are being verified and studied for more clues.