Just last weekend, one of our people received a call late at night. An Indian voice asked him for details of his credit card and for his security question. That call was genuine, from his bank's fraud department, but for an estimated 15,000 US taxpayers, the department calling was all about committing not preventing fraud.
On one level, it is difficult to understand how anyone can fall for some of the telephone scams yet on another level, it is easy to see how it happens. And, while technology facilitates the offence, it also facilitates catching the criminals.
In October, a group of men were arrested and taken to court in Thane, near Mumbai. They were accused of calling US residents. If they were out, they left a US phone number, if they were in, they started the scam.
The scam was simple - and has, apparently, been running since 2013. The callers says that the victim is under investigation by the USA's Internal Revenue Sercvice for tax evasion or tax fraud. In one case, reported by Reuters, the fraudster told the woman " to keep the phone line open and drive to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and gave the ‘agent’ the redemption codes."
20 people have been arrested in the USA and 75 in India. The charges are wide ranging from identity fraud to money laundering and others. Indian Police are looking for a man called Sagar (Saggy) Thakkar, that they allege was the ringleader. He is now suspected of being in Dubai.
There were days when pickings were especially good and as much as USD20,000 was taken from a single victim, according to a Reuters investigation.
The tactics were very similar to the pressure selling of securities seen run by British citizens (and others) from call centres in Spain and Bangkok, hidden from the authorities but operating for extended periods. As in those schemes, people remained because of high bonuses, rewards and a party atmosphere amongst the staff who are discouraged from discussing their work with outsiders.
Yet the data is there to identify the perpetrators. Even private phone numbers leave a trail in the hands of the telcos and IP phone providers. Companies that go from zero to large volumes of calls are inherently suspicious.
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